A big new study published in the journal Science, led by Princeton’s Solomon Hsiang and Berkeley’s Marshall Burke, examined the link between higher temperatures and violence. After analyzing 60 previous studies on the topic, the paper found “strong causal evidence linking climatic events to human conflict across a range of spatial and temporal scales and across all major regions of the world.”
So does that mean that climate change will make war more common in the decades ahead? Actually, despite all the alarming headlines, that’s not so clear. Researchers who work in this field say that this is a complicated subject, and there’s not really a straightforward answer here.
At a basic level, it’s easy to dream up all sorts of ways that hotter temperatures or other climatic disruptions might make conflict more likely. What if more frequent droughts put various groups in conflict for water resources? What if sea-level rise forces, say, millions of refugees from Bangladesh to flee into India?
But that hardly means that conflict is inevitable in a warmer world. After all, the 2000s were the warmest decade on record, but they also managed to be “the least conflict-ridden decade since the 1970s.”
So clearly there are other things at work here. As one big 2010 study of East Africa in the 1990s and 2000s found, variations in climate don’t do nearly as well at predicting outbreaks of violence as political, economic or geographic factors do. Climate can be a contributor to conflicts, that study suggested. But it’s rarely the only factor – or even the most important one.
Read more at The Washington Post.