In discussions about global climate change, the discourse tends to be obscured by questions about the merits of scientific inquiry. With 97 percent of climate scientists arguing that human activity has played an integral role in the rise in global temperatures, it is not difficult to make an educated assumption as to which side of the argument is in the right. For many, the constant back and forth of this argument further obstructs meaningful discussion on the consequences of climate change.
To be sure, without adequate education on the issue, or education in general, critical thought will be effectively obstructed. The predominant portion of the public does not understand the scientific underpinnings of the discussions, so it is not surprising when they take a perceived authority’s word as true. For this very reason, where Fox News has a vested interest in denying climate change, their viewers are significantly less likely to view the issue as important.
While the purported effects of climate change are varied, in this article, we will focus on one particular social effect, the effect of climate change on human conflict.
In a joint study conducted by the University of California, Berkeley, and Princeton University, researchers found a direct, precipitous causal link between increases in temperature and human conflict. In the course of the study, the researchers omitted various confounding factors such as history and culture and instead focused on violence over time. Through observations as simple as aggression in baseball pitchers up to civilization-ending conflict, the study indicated a direct causal link between a rise in temperature and human aggression.
Focusing principally on crop production, the research model sought to determine the effect of climate change on agriculture, and from there, the effect of crop production on human conflict. After much number crunching, the researchers found “the magnitude of climate’s influence is substantial: for each 1 standard deviation (1σ) change in climate towards warmer temperatures or more extreme rainfall, median estimates indicate that the frequency of interpersonal violence rises 4 percent and the frequency of intergroup conflict rises 14 percent.”
Taking into consideration prevailing expectations of an average of a two to four standard deviation rise in global temperatures, the researchers’ model predicts a 60 percent rise in intergroup conflict and 15 percent rise in interpersonal conflict by 2050. Understandably, it is within our direct interests to stem the rise of violence, whether it is intergroup or interpersonal. With a scarcity of resources, people will tend to divorce themselves from prevailing societal norms and tend towards more instinctual means of sustenance acquisition.
Moving forward, the study prompts us to take the reins in not only mitigating a rise in temperature, but also in developing pragmatic policy.
– Thomas Van Der List