By Malee Oot August 6, 2013
A new study published in the journal Science on August 1, 2013 by University of California Berkeley and Princeton University found a correlation between climactic shifts and human conflict. The UC Berkley and Princeton study was more comprehensive than any previously research conducted evaluating the correlation between climate and conflict, and looked at 60 previous studies including 45 different data sets conducted in every region on earth. The study drew from a number of disciplines, including climatology, economics, political science, and psychology for more comprehensive evaluation of the impact of even subtle climactic shifts on human relationships at individual and group level.
The major finding was a startling correlation between increasing temperatures and violence. In all 27 of the modern societies evaluated by the study, a positive correlation was found between higher temperatures and conflict. Co-author for the study Marshall Burke, from the University of California Berkeley wrote in a press release, “one standard deviation shift towards hotter conditions causes the likelihood of personal violence to rise by 4% and intergroup conflict to rise 14%.”
Patterns of climate related conflict were identified by the Berkeley-Princeton study in every corner of the globe, and manifest in a range of human interactions. The study found climactic shifts like increases in temperature, droughts, and floods were related to increases in domestic violence in India and Australia, higher numbers of assaults and murders in the United States and Tanzania, land invasions in Brazil, increased incidence of civil conflict in the tropics, ethnic-based violence in parts of South Asia and Europe, and increased use of police force in the Netherlands.
The most troubling implication of the UC Berkeley-Princeton study is what could unfold in the next half century. Without a massive global mitigation effort, current climate models predict global temperatures will rise by 2˚C in the next fifty years, which could result in an increase in the incidence of violence by over 50% in many parts of the world, based on the Berkeley-Princeton findings.
One of the areas examined by the study was Cambodia, which descended into violence under the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979. An earlier Khmer society also collapsed in 1431, leaving behind the iconic Angkor Wat.