Law enforcement officials have long noticed that on hot summer nights, crime rates tend to go up. Now, a study from the University of California, Berkeley linked climate-changing weather patterns – such as heat waves, torrential downpours and droughts – with a clear increase in crime, riots, clashes and war.
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Marshall Burke, an Agricultural Economist, conducted a meta analysis of 60 previous studies that looked at climate events and changes in human conflicts, including civil conflicst in Africa, road rage cases in the US, ethic tensions in India, and even the fall of the Mayan Empire. The study went so far as to note changes in the types of pitches thrown during Major League Baseball games when the heat goes up.
“Climate affects economic productivity, institutions and human physiology…It’s likely that climate is important for conflict precisely because it shapes so many of these other factors that also affect conflict.”
– Marshall Burke, Study LEAD
Burke’s research team used mathematical models that merged the data on conflicts with rainfall and temperature projections all the way through 2050 to come up with predictions for likely climate-teated violence.
The results were stunning: War and Unrest could spike by up to 56 percent between 2013 and 2050. Other acts of aggression, such as domestic violence, assault and homicide, could increase by 16 percent.
The study was published in August’s Science, but not everyone was convinced.
“It’s a tremendous leap to draw these conclusions — that climate change is linked to violence — and factors such as economics, technology, poverty, group dynamics, cultural nationalism and personalities play significant roles in outbreaks of war,”
– William Martel, International securities expert, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.
Researchers have yet to identify exactly what it is that links higher temperature and increased aggression, but they point out that resource scarcity – an obvious side-effect of droughts, floods and more weird weather – often lead to food shortages or economic disparity, and those situations can often create a powderkeg of social conflict issues.