Feel Like Punching Someone? Blame Global Warming

Climate change is being blamed for melting ice caps, widespread drought, and now — violence? 

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, after studying 60 years of data, concluded that as global temperatures rose, so did rates of violence. Their study, they say, shows a "substantial" correlation between climate and conflict.

Marshall Burke, one scientist on the project, told the BBC, "This is a relationship we observe across time and across all major continents around the world. The relationship we find between these climate variables and conflict outcomes are often very large."

His team projects that if climate change continues at its current pace, the world will become more violent in the future. But the scientists suggest that the climate/conflict correlation even incites modern-day violence. 

In their study, they connect climate change with crime and conflict all over the world. The scientists associate recent droughts in India to increased rates of domestic violence, heatwaves in the U.S. to assaults, rapes, and murders, and rising global temperatures to clashes in Europe and Africa. 

But is it true that a hotter planet is making us angrier, and thus more prone to violent behavior? Some scientists embrace the cause and effect relationship, while others scoff at the notion. 

Dr. Stephan Harrison, a researcher at the University of Exeter, called the study "timely" and told the BBC, "What they have found is entirely plausible... For example, we already know that hotter and drier weather causes an increase in urban violence. Likewise, during cooler and wetter weather people tend to stay indoors, and the threat diminishes."

Harrison's point of view seems to argue that the warmer the weather, the more likely one is to leave his or her home and move about. A change of environment, even in such a subtle way, makes people more likely to get into trouble. 

Yet, that's just one theory. Dr. Halvard Buhaug, from the Peace Research Institute in Oslo, Norway, does not dismiss the conflict/climate claims outright, but urges scientists to avoid such drastic claims. 

He told the BBC, "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."

Nonetheless, the climate/conflict theory is an intriguing one. And if it is true, I wish I'd had it on hand all my childhood. I could've told my mom, "Global warming made me do it."

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Uchechi Kalu

Uchechi is PolicyMic's Politics Intern and a senior@ Princeton University. Tweet her @chechkalu

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