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Climate & Conflict

August 8, 2013

Climate change may precipitate violence, according to a historical analysis.



Climate and violence. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Researchers from Princeton University and the University of California-Berkeley suggest that more human conflict is a likely outcome of climate change. The researchers found that even one standard-deviation shift -- the amount of change from the local norm -- in temperature and precipitation greatly increase the risk of personal violence and social upheaval. Climate-change models predict an average of 2 to 4 standard-deviation shifts in global climate conditions by 2050 (above), with 4 representing the greatest change in normal conditions. (Science/AAAS)

Climate change may be setting us up for a more warlike future. This according to to the most comprehensive study of the issue yet. Professor of public policy Solomon Hsiang, of the University of California, Berkeley was on the team. Looking across ten thousand years, they analyzed the relationship between hotter temperatures and heavier rainfall to all kinds of human conflict, from one-on-one violence to long, protracted wars. And unlike past studies, they also looked at it on all kinds of spatial scales.

SOLOMON HSIANG (University of California, Berkeley):

So we’ve been looking at climatic shocks that occur to an entire region, or to the entire globe, and we also look at the same climatic variables within a building or a stadium.

Across the board, they found that when things get hotter and wetter, violence increases – whether it’s over a span of hours or millenia. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.