Climate change might be on track to do more than reduce the Earth’s resources and jeopardize the health of mankind — it could cause us all to start fighting with each other. The Center for the Study of Civil War (CSCW) just published research in the journal Nature showing that global climate change has the ability to stoke hostile conditions in developing nations. The study looked at years that the El Niño weather patterns (which are pretty close indicators of what will happen in the future with global climate change) were in effect and found that in poorer nations that are prone to drought, the threat of civil war doubled. It looks like green design might be useful for more than saving Mother Nature – if widely instituted, our greener ways could stop us all from shooting each other.
El Niño is a weather phenomenon that causes warming on the surface of the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean every five years. The warming of the ocean then causes reciprocal extreme weather like floods, storms and droughts in different regions of the world. CSCW looked at the instances of civil war worldwide in the past six decades — 234 civil wars in 175 countries — and found that the outbreak of civil war in tropical countries doubled in the years that El Niño occurred. Modeling on that data the researchers found that hotter, drier conditions stoked 48 civil wars that would not have occurred if El Niño hadn’t happened. “This represents the first major evidence that global climate is a major factor in organized patterns of violence,” said Solomon Hsiang of Columbia University, the lead author of the research.
“It is frankly difficult to see why that won’t carry over to a world that is disrupted by global warming,” said Mark Cane of Columbia University. “If these smaller, shorter-lasting and, by and large, less serious kinds of changes associated with El Niño have this effect, it is hard to imagine that the more pervasive changes that come with anthropogenic climate change are not also going to have negative effects on civil conflict.” Researchers believe that issues arise as droughts and flooding destroy crops, and food and arid land become scarce. The quest for a place to live that will sustain life provokes violence over land ownership.
One green warrior attempting to reverse this very problem is Allan Savory and his Operation Hope project — which won the 2010 Buckminster Fuller Challenge. Savory and his team work to reverse desertification in drought prone regions with the introduction of livestock and whole-system farming practices. The researchers at Columbia University who worked on this study note that governments and world leaders should be prepared for these issues to arise. As we march on our earthly destruction and the Earth’s climate begins to change we might not be able to avoid this unfortunate phenomenon.