Shifts in climate are strongly linked to human violence around the world, according to a new study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and Princeton University.
Even relatively minor departures from normal temperatures or rainfall can substantially increase the risk of conflict. The study, which includes more data than prior research in this field and covers all major regions of the globe, shows the Earth’s climate plays a more influential role in human affairs than previously thought.
The results were published August 1 in the journal Science.
The authors found similar patterns of conflict around the world that were linked to changes in climatic, such as increased drought or higher than average annual temperature. Examples include spikes in domestic violence in India and Australia; increased assaults and murders in the United States and Tanzania; ethnic violence in Europe and South Asia; land invasions in Brazil; police using force in the Netherlands; civil conflicts throughout the tropics; and even the collapse of Mayan and Chinese empires.
The study could have critical implications for understanding the impact of future climate change on human societies, as many climate models project global temperature increases of at least 2 degrees Celsius over the next 50 years.
The researchers said that exactly why climate affects conflict and violence is the most pressing question for future related research. While the study finds strong evidence that climatic events may be a cause of conflict, the researchers stressed that they are not claiming that climate is the only or primary cause of conflict, cautioning that conflict dynamics are complex and remain poorly understood.
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