Climate and Human Conflict; Rising Temperatures May Spur More

Contributor(s): 
February 1, 2014

Humans fight over many things, including mates, money, ideas, religion, and natural resources. A recent study by Hsiang and colleagues asks how climate change might affect the frequency of human conflict.

The authors performed a meta-analysis using data from 60 published studies that examined how climate affected human conflict across different contexts. They found striking patterns: for each standard deviation increase in temperature or change in rainfall (producing either more rain and floods or more droughts), inter-personal violence rises by 4%, and inter-group conflict rises by 14%. These increases in conflict can be caused by a host of factors that may be related, including changes in agricultural production, water availability, institutional infrastructure, and political stability. If climate change predictions are correct (i.e. temperatures increase by 2 to 4 standard deviations during the 21st century) and the general patterns discovered by Hsiang and colleagues are accurate, then conflict between individual humans and groups of humans could rise dramatically.

***

Hsiang S, M Burke, E Miguel (2013) Quantifying the influence of climate on human conflict. Science:10.1126/science.1235367