Research on climate change has long suggested that increases in average global temperatures in the near to medium-term future could trigger conflict over food and water resources. As global temperatures increase, drought will become more common and food and water could become more scarce, sparking violent conflict between states. But a new line of research published in Science suggests that violent conflict could become more common as global temperatures increase even in the absence of underlying resource tensions.
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and Princeton University analyzed 60 previous studies from around the world, ranging “spikes in domestic violence in India and Australia; increased assaults and murders in the United States and Tanzania; ethnic violence in Europe and South Asia; land invasions in Brazil; police using force in the Netherlands; civil conflicts throughout the tropics; and even the collapse of Mayan and Chinese empires.” The study found strong correlations between each of these and increases in global temperatures. As the study’s co-lead author, Marhsall Burke noted, “a 1 standard deviation shift towards hotter conditions causes the likelihood of personal violence to rise 4 percent and intergroup conflict to rise 14 percent.” An increase in global temperatures by 2 degrees Celsius, in other words, could increase the rate of intergroup conflicts—largely ethnic conflict and civil wars—by over 50 percent.
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