Study Finds That Climate Change Causes Wars

by , 08/26/11

civil war, global climate change, global warming, global conflict, civil war conflict, civil conflict, violence in africa, el nino violence, climate change violence

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.

civil war, global climate change, global warming, global conflict, civil war conflict, civil conflict, violence in africa, el nino violence, climate change violence

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.

Via Scientific American

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  1. caeman August 29, 2011 at 11:21 am

    And here I thought that it was people that started wars. Can I blame my car problems on climate change?

  2. lazyreader August 26, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    All of these experts are all predicting wars will break out over resources. Typically the one they talk of most is water. But the supposed water wars of the future will never erupt. Water is too heavy and dense a substance. A gallon of water weighs over 8 pounds, so transporting it accounts for most of the costs, so the idea of Mad Max style bandits running off with water jugs is ridiculous, they would have to drink a lot of it sweating from the workout carrying it. It’s not cost effective to do it in the long run compared to spending the money/resources on developing new supplies of potable water. A month’s worth of fighting between Israel and neighboring nations over water sources would be as costly than if Israel built several desalination plants and ran them for a year producing billions of surplus gallons. Human activity consumed 3000 cubic kilometers of water in the year 2000, up from 600 cubic km in 1900. Yet the world contains 1.38 billion cubic kilometers of water, 461,000 times more water than the human race currently requires. Since future demands for water coincide with a future growing GDP, water access and cleaning will increase in the future not decrease. Desalination is expensive no doubt and recycling waste water is less expensive than the latter but more expensive than traditional water, but the costs are becoming more competitive, desalination costs have declined by half in the last ten years and no doubt will decline even further in the next decade. In the near future we’ll recycle all our waste water for immediate human consumption. The same technology that is used aboard the space station. In the not to distant future, all current and expected water treatment or desalination technologies are gonna be rendered obsolete by a new technology; Nanotube membranes. They function on the size of the gaps of linked carbon atoms to restrict most particles to flow through it. Water molecules are barely small enough to fit through thus must be forced through at high pressure, but prevent larger particles like bacteria, prions, poisons, viruses, salts and other particles which are too large to fit. Treatment or desalination will be interlinked to provide water needs and with far less energy and labor needed to do it and the costs of doing either is gonna be comparable and superior to previous technology which require lots of mechanical parts to separate and lots of chemical separators and disinfectants. If nano membranes can be mass produced we can distribute portable units that are hand or animal powered to provide drinking water to developing nations.

    Example: In the 1970’s and 80’s, computer and telecommunications was rapidly growing requiring a huge demand for copper to wire the world. Fears regarding copper price surges and monopolies hoarding stockpiles to sell to select few. But by the 90’s copper prices experienced a decline in price largely due to the invention of optical fiber which has all but replaced copper for the telecommunications market and billions of miles of fiber optics have been strewn across the country and around the world in far greater excess than copper could have provided. Being largely made of glass (i.e sand) and I doubt wars will ever be fought over something as ubiquitous as kitty litter.

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