Researchers forecast more violence due to climate change in 50 years
It has long been believed that people act more violent when it gets really hot. But few people have done a real scientific study to test the idea that high temperatures can lead to fighting.
Now three researchers have done just such a study. Their work included observations from ancient history, Major League Baseball and traffic jams.
The University of California researchers pulled together information from dozens of studies. They concluded that there could be as much as 56 percent more war and rioting by 2050 because of higher temperatures and extreme rainfall patterns. The weather changes are predicted by climate scientists.
Violence between individuals might rise too. The researchers said crimes like murder and domestic abuse could rise 16 percent. Their study was published by the journal Science.
Climate Change And Fighting
The researchers said that there was strong evidence to link climate change and fighting. This was true across the world, they said.
How hot do scientists think the Earth will get? The study assumes the global temperature will rise at least 4 degrees Fahrenheit over the next 50 years. That figure is based on information from scientists who study climates.
The researchers also assumed that people would do little to adapt to changes in temperature and rainfall patterns.
The team examined 60 papers. The papers covered studies on weather, economics, government, the human mind and other fields.
Some of the topics covered minor incidents, like road rage between two drivers. Others covered major conflicts, such as war between countries.
Researchers in one case held up traffic at a hot Phoenix corner. They wanted to see who would get angry and honk their horns more: drivers in cars with or without air conditioning.
"The Result Is Alarming"
Scientists in another study looked at Major League Baseball. They wanted to see if a pitcher was more likely to throw at the batter when it got hotter.
Another group used information from tree rings in Southeast Asia. The goal? To figure out how a severe drought led to the fall of an Asian kingdom 600 years ago.
No matter where in the world they looked, the researchers said they saw a link between temperature, rain and conflict. This was true no matter the year. Large-scale group conflict could rise 28 to 56 percent over the next 37 years, they decided. Personal violence could increase 8 to 16 percent.
“The result is alarming,” study co-author Marshall Burke said. He specializes in how climate change affects access to food. But mankind can still make adjustments that could make climate change less of a problem, he said.
The authors say they can only guess why heat and rainfall changes would make humans more violent.
More Research And Planning Needed
One traditional explanation is that climate shifts hit farm-based societies very hard. It becomes much more difficult for those societies to make money.
“People are more likely to take up arms" when the way their society makes money is threatened, study leader Solomon Hsiang said.
Hsiang and the other researchers make no attempt to establish a clear cause. They say there might be a physical link between heat and acting on anger. But they are not biologists. What they want is for their work to cause more research and planning in the face of global warming.
“We like to compare it to smoking,” Burke said. “In the 1930s scientists were figuring out there was this really strong relationship between smoking and lung cancer." But it took many years to figure out just what precisely linked smoking to cancer.