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Harvey writes: "Many experts now say that violence, war and other forms of human conflict may be driven or worsened by the effects of climate change. A new study, published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, lends support to the growing body of evidence behind this idea."

Smoke rises after airstrikes on Aleppo's Castello Road in Syria, June 2. (photo: Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters)
Smoke rises after airstrikes on Aleppo's Castello Road in Syria, June 2. (photo: Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters)

How Climate Change Can Drive Violent Conflict Around the World

By Chelsea Harvey, The Washington Post

26 July 16


t’s increasingly clear that the consequences of climate change won’t stop at just heat waves and sea-level rise. Scientists expect numerous social issues to arise around the world as well, such as food shortages, decreased water quality and forced migrations. And many experts now say that violence, war and other forms of human conflict may be driven or worsened by the effects of climate change.  

A new study, published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, lends support to the growing body of evidence behind this idea. The study finds that climate-related disasters may enhance the risk of armed conflict around the world — specifically in countries with high levels of ethnic divides.

“This debate comes up time and again — is climate change really something like a trigger for violent conflict?” said Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and senior author of the new paper. “Some people say yes, others say no. There’s a heated debate about it.”

Many studies in the past have addressed the question of whether climate events might drive human conflict. Some of these have examined the issue on a global scale, while others have zeroed in on specific events — for instance, several studies have implicated drought as one of many factors that aided in the outbreak of civil war in Syria. Overall, multiple studies have indicated a connection between climate and conflict, although several have suggested that the link may be weak. So the concept has remained something of a controversial topic.

The new study seeks to help lay some of the debate to rest. The researchers compiled a list of armed conflicts and a list of natural disasters around the world between the years 1980 and 2010. They analyzed each disaster in terms of the amount of economic damage it caused to the nation where it occurred. They then conducted statistical tests to determine whether any of the conflicts and disasters coincided.

“What we do is not just correlational analysis, but so-called coincidence analysis, which also looks at which event is coming first and then which other one follows — so you get a certain causality,” Schellnhuber explained. In other words, the tests help to indicate whether one event — say, a drought or a heat wave — might have helped trigger an event that followed it, such as an outbreak of war.

The researchers also grouped countries in terms of other nation-specific factors that might have influenced the outbreak of conflict, such as income inequality, religious divides and ethnic divides.

Altogether, they found a significant link between climate disasters and the outbreak of violent conflict specifically in countries with high degrees of ethnic fractionalization. Notably, the other factors did not seem to play an important role — only when countries were examined in terms of their ethnic divides did climate events significantly exacerbate the outbreak of conflict. This seemed to be the case for climate disasters that caused both large and small amounts of economic damage. In all, about 23 percent of armed conflicts in highly ethnically divided nations coincided with climate-related disasters.

“We cannot explain the full complexity of the emergence of violent conflict, but here we have found something really robust, a factor that really matters,” Schellnhuber said.

The authors have emphasized that their results don’t necessarily suggest that climate events are the root cause behind any given conflict. Rather, they indicate that these events may increase the likelihood of violence erupting in a place that was already predisposed to conflict, or potentially serve as the final straw in an area where trouble was already brewing. your social media marketing partner


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+11 # guomashi 2016-07-26 18:21
OK, I guess someone hasn't received the memo that all wars are fought over resources, and climate change is already beginning to limit resources.

The climate change genie is out of the bottle. Absent a decrease in population, resources will continue to diminish while populations continue to increase. Conflicts will increase.

Let's start providing free birth control and abortions on demand world wide. Loss of resources perforce means diminished capacity to sustain populations. Why waste resources raising people to maturity just to have them shoot each other?
+7 # janie1893 2016-07-27 01:18
Good thinking, guomashi. I agree with you.
WE MUST control the human population around the world for the very reasons you state.
+3 # ajd3dahm 2016-07-27 05:36
A Defense Science Board study of a couple of years ago, stated that the southern edge of the Sahara is determined by rainfall where the northeast winds from the northern Indian ocean meet the southwest winds from the southern Atlantic ocean, and that this line is moving southward as a resut of the warming of the oceans. Conflicts in Sudan possibly result from resultant scarce food supplies.
-8 # 2016-07-27 07:04
This all sounds very plausible until one considers that warmist theory tells us that we are already experiencing global warming (and accurately cite that temperatures have increased by a couple of degrees since the start of the industrial revolution) but worldwide deaths from state-based conflicts (including rebellions and coups) are at an all time low. In WWII/Korean War era mortality from state based conflicts peaked at about 5.5 deaths/100,000 people while today we are experiencing about .5 deaths/100,000 people.

When actual facts contradict theory, there is probably something wrong with the theory.

Lee Nason
New Bedford, Massachusetts
+6 # Dust 2016-07-27 08:59
Actually, it depends on people being able to UNDERSTAND the theory and being sufficiently honest to consider it in the event that both fact and theory fly in the face of their value system.

(Hint - that means you)
+3 # Bryan 2016-07-27 11:16
It is not just (inter) state based conflicts that need to be counted in climate change human toll.

The UN has long listed 'famines' and wars as the two causes of 'migration'---p eople becoming refugees.

And of course famine is caused by weather factors.
+3 # Bryan 2016-07-27 11:24
The argument against human caused climate change is usually that all weather pattern changes are just 'cycles' that repeat over centuries.

But it really is ignorance or denial to not admit that human insults to nature --pollution, deforestation, and a host of other human dumpings on the environment aren't contributing to the extreme climate changes.
+2 # elizabethblock 2016-07-29 17:38
An important factor in what's going on in Syria is a five-year drought -- climate-caused -- that drove people off the land and into the cities.

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