Climate change will kill us all… if we don’t kill each other first, that is. Newly published research suggests that there is a strong connection between rising temperatures and acts of violence. As such, experts fear that extreme weather conditions may amplify the rate of wars and murder in the upcoming decades.
Researchers at Princeton and University of California Berkeley concluded that human conflict increases 14% and violence rises 4% with even a modest shift in weather. They reached this determination by examining a large number of studies that scrutinized weather and violence. Any single study may be a fluke, but when nearly 200 studies demonstrated a link between rising temperatures and violent acts, it indicates a cause for concern.
On a micro level, people are more likely to honk their horns, commit domestic violence or rape, and respond physically to a tense situation when it gets hotter. On a macro level, it inspires surges in warfare and institutional violence.
It’s not just a recent phenomenon – scientists took a historical look at temperature increases, as well. The fall of most Chinese dynasties occurred during periods of unusual heat. The same goes for the Mayan civilization. Moreover, whenever El Nino appeared, civil conflicts in the countries it affected swelled.
To be clear, the various studies can only show a correlation between violence and heat, not causation. Certainly, many factors play into violent incidents; it would be naïve to say that people kill each other solely because of the weather. However, it does look like a strong possibility that the temperature can be an exacerbating factor in human conflict.
Even if you doubt the validity of the research, it’s hardly a stretch to anticipate heightened violence and strife in the face of climate change. Neglecting the apparent psychological impact of unusual weather, the impact on the food supply and the decline of natural resources is likely to result in warfare on its own. In other words, even if the heat itself doesn’t drive us into a bloodthirsty rage, the consequences of climate change may inspire this hostility anyway.
Will this finally be the study that inspires governments to tackle climate change? Given how powerful the military industrial complex is and how eager nations are to engage in war, the notion of future heightened violence is not likely to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Nonetheless, it goes to show that if humanity can’t get its act together now, we can’t expect for “cooler heads” to prevail in the face of that heat. If we continue on our current path, the question won’t be whether we’ll manage to survive, but whether we’ll exterminate ourselves before the planet does.