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Author Topic: Influence of climate change on human violence  (Read 3224 times)

Anne

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Influence of climate change on human violence
« on: August 02, 2013, 06:44:18 AM »
I pray thee, good Mercutio, let’s retire.
The day is hot; the Capulets, abroad;
And if we meet we shall not ’scape a brawl,
For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring.

Seems Shakespeare was onto something. Reporting in Science1, researchers from Princeton and Berkeley found
Quote
even slight spikes in temperature and precipitation have greatly increased the risk of personal violence and social upheaval throughout human history. Projected onto an Earth that is expected to warm by 2 degrees Celsius by 2050, the authors suggest that more human conflict is a likely outcome of climate change.
The researchers analyzed 60 studies from a number of disciplines -- including archaeology, criminology, economics and psychology -- that have explored the connection between weather and violence in various parts of the world from about 10,000 BCE to the present day. During an 18-month period, the Princeton-Berkeley researchers reviewed those studies' data -- and often re-crunched raw numbers -- to calculate the risk that violence would rise under hotter and wetter conditions.
They found that while climate is not the sole or primary cause of violence, it undeniably exacerbates existing social and interpersonal tension in all societies, regardless of wealth or stability. They found that 1 standard-deviation shift -- the amount of change from the local norm -- in heat or rainfall boosts the risk of a riot, civil war or ethnic conflict by an average of 14 percent. There is a 4 percent chance of a similarly sized upward creep in heat or rain sparking person-on-person violence such as rape, murder and assault. The researchers report that climate-change models predict an average of 2 to 4 standard-deviation shifts in global climate conditions by 2050.

It's tempting to quote the whole article, which confirms worst fears.
Much more in the Science Daily article here. The paper itself is behind a paywall - link below.


1Solomon M. Hsiang, Marshall Burke, and Edward Miguel. Quantifying the Influence of Climate on Human Conflict. Science, 1 August 2013 DOI: 10.1126/science.1235367

pikaia

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Re: Influence of climate change on human violence
« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2013, 10:52:14 AM »
BBC World Service broadcast on the subject:-

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01cl3qy

Anne

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Re: Influence of climate change on human violence
« Reply #2 on: August 02, 2013, 11:13:56 AM »
Thanks, pikaia. There's a BBC article related to that World Service programme here.

I was interested to see the dissenting view from Dr Halvard Buhaug, from the Peace Research Institute Oslo, Norway
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"I disagree with the sweeping conclusion (the authors) draw and believe that their strong statement about a general causal link between climate and conflict is unwarranted by the empirical analysis that they provide.

"I was surprised to see not a single reference to a real-world conflict that plausibly would not have occurred in the absence of observed climatic extremes. If the authors wish to claim a strong causal link, providing some form of case validation is critical."

That doesn't seem to be what they are claiming though, merely that climate change can exacerbate existing tensions. (Leaving aside tensions caused by climate, eg scarcity of resources.) They are describing a tendency, much as one cannot attribute any particular storm to climate change, but the frequency of storms can be attributable.

His earlier paper is here:
Climate not to blame for African civil wars (PNAS, 2010, open access)

(Edited to remove superfluous word.)
« Last Edit: August 02, 2013, 06:28:17 PM by Anne »

Tor Bejnar

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Re: Influence of climate change on human violence
« Reply #3 on: August 02, 2013, 01:40:51 PM »
Climate Change and Rising Food Prices Heightened Arab Spring
A quick search brought up this article that supports the thesis:  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=climate-change-and-rising-food-prices-heightened-arab-spring.
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Anne

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Re: Influence of climate change on human violence
« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2013, 01:52:23 PM »
Thanks, Tor. I've often seen it claimed that global warming played a role. As they say in that article, global warming may not have caused the Arab Spring, but it may have made it come earlier.

Dr Buhaug's focus of study was sub-Saharan Africa. He says this in his 2010 paper, mentioned above (pdf),
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Climate change and its associated physical effects, such as higher temperatures and evaporation, more erratic weather patterns, melting of glaciers, and sea level rise, may well constitute the defining challenge of our time. Exposed societies that lack necessary capacity and knowledge to adapt successfully may face increasing asymmetries between demand and supply of subsistence resources (e.g., freshwater, pasture, crops) as well as basic public goods (sanitation, health, electricity) (37, 38). Some have also raised concerns about an associated rise in violent conflict. The present analysis gives little support to such speculation. The simple fact is this: climate characteristics and variability are unrelated to short-term variations in civil war risk in Sub-Saharan Africa. The primary causes of civil war are political, not environmental, and although environmental conditions may change with future warming, general correlates of conflicts and wars are likely to prevail.
  Targeted climate adaptation initiatives, such as those outlined in various United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change-sponsored National Adaptation Programs of Action, can have significant positive implications for social well-being and human security. But these initiatives should not be considered a replacement for traditional peace-building strategies. The challenges imposed by future global warming are too daunting to let the debate on social effects and required countermeasures be sidetracked by atypical, nonrobust scientific findings and actors with vested interests.

Tor Bejnar

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Re: Influence of climate change on human violence
« Reply #5 on: August 02, 2013, 04:01:06 PM »
Fox News article about the large study ends:  http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/08/02/every-degree-warmer-risk-violent-crime-war/?intcmp=features
Quote
But Joshua Goldstein, a professor of international relations at American University and author of "Winning the War on War," found faults with the way the study measured conflicts. He said the idea of hotter tempers with hotter temperatures is only one factor in conflict, and that it runs counter to a long and large trend to less violence.
 
"To read this you get the impression, if climate change unfolds as we all fear it will, that the world will be beset by violent conflict and that's probably not true," Goldstein said.
 
"Because of positive changes in technology, economics, politics and health" conflict is likely to continue to drop, although maybe not as much as it would without climate change, he said.
 
[Edward] Miguel [co-author of study] acknowledges that many other factors play a role in conflict and said it's too soon to see whether conflict from warming will outweigh peace from prosperity: "It's a race against time."
How will prosperity continue/increase (or become available) as more and more people become climate refugees or are otherwise adversely affected by climate change?

In the U.S., there is a trend of declining prosperity. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204840504578086264176773002.html
[Why the choice of my sources here?  Even these publishers of "it's not bad, nothing to see" priint "if CC unfolds as we all fear it will" and "the U.S. has fallen out of the Top 10 [on economic prosperity] for the first time ever" (regardless of how they attempt to spin things).]
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ritter

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Re: Influence of climate change on human violence
« Reply #6 on: August 02, 2013, 06:18:53 PM »
Interesting. So, 14% increase chance of violence based just on temp/precip without considering famine, disease, fuel constraints, water constraints, sea level rise, migration and economic upheaval. If we attach an arbitrary 10% to each of those, we're at 84% chance.

Future's so bright, I've got to wear  8).

Anne

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Re: Influence of climate change on human violence
« Reply #7 on: August 02, 2013, 07:48:46 PM »
Nafeez Ahmed has a thoughtful if provocative piece about it in the Guardian. He is critical of both the current study and Dr Buhaug's.

Turns out he's written about it before, in The Socio-Political Relations of Climate Catastrophe: Towards Systemic Transformation (pdf - with a chunk missing about ancient Rome). Bear with me while I wander slightly off topic and then back again.

After a quick overview of some prominent AGW papers, and theories of systems and collapses, he makes this observation:
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while international efforts to agree ways to cut emissions are failing, national state plans to respond to the "security‟ implications of climate change are proceeding apace with alarming implications. American, British, European, and Russian defence agencies have relegated the potentially destabilizing effects of climate change as an important "amplifying‟ factor that will intensify traditional security threats – thus positing climate change as a key national security issue. Yet, this overwhelming focus on securitizing climate change, while necessitating and justifying further military and defence expenditures in preparation for dangerous climate impacts, has done nothing to motivate states to attempt to prevent or mitigate climate change. Instead it has led to a symptom-oriented approach which focuses on attempting to maximise the state‟s military-political capacities to manage crises inevitably generated by future climate change, rather than to pro-actively stop that climate change from happening in the first place. Paradoxically, this promises to intensify the danger of regressive geopolitical competition, conflict and insecurity in key strategic regions rich with hydrocarbon resources such as the Arctic, the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa.
One might take issue with the term "relegate", as quite a lot else is being done on a local level, and anyway it would be foolish of governments to ignore the security issues. But the ratcheting up of military capability to respond to climate change has been noted elsewhere on the forum. Just type the word "military" in the search function up there on the top right and see how many results come up. OK, admittedly, they're not all negative.

He attributes both the cause of AGW and the global failure to mend it to the capitalist system, rather than simple desire of every country not to be the patsy. He conducts a neo-Marxist critique of neo-liberal finance capitalism and the class system, amplifying it by reference to Teresa Brennan's theory of Economy for the Earth, that "short-term profitability depends on an increasing debt to nature, a debt that must always be deferred, even at the price of survival."
Well, I'm no Marxist but even so I've often thought that we live in a giant Ponzi scheme with regard to current exploitation of natural resources.

He concludes
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this means that any serious effort to tackle the crisis of climate change requires attention not simply to its effects, but more significantly to its systemic causes in the operation of the neoliberal global political economy. This must lead to recognition of the urgent necessity of reorganising markets so that the costs of human and environmental reproduction are factored in. But this can only be done by ceasing the opportunity presented by the increasing weakness and instability of global capitalism in its current process of catabolic collapse, to galvanise a bottom-up process of civilizational transition. This process will involve producers themselves working together to not simply challenge existing structures of production, but also to challenge the overlapping sub-systems with which they are concurrently co-extensive, such as the ideology of crude materialism and consumerism; the psychology of excessive egoism; the unequal economics of finance capital and resource ownership; and the jingoistic militarism of imperialist geopolitics. As a matter of urgency, part of this endeavour must involve the academy working to develop new visions for what a more harmonious and just civilization could and should look like  – and how to get there.

Well, good luck with that, Dr Ahmed. Reorganising markets is easier said than done. And a bit like geoengineering in the potential for unintended consequences. I can't see "the ideology of crude materialism and consumerism" losing its hold any time soon. I can't see those with economic power willingly letting go their control. It's going to be a bumpy ride.