News

    Study: Climate is Major Violence Trigger

    Forecasts can help mitigate human Crisis

    Researchers say that, by using the forecasts of El Nino effectively, officials might be able to predict possible outbreaks of violence and be more prepared to handle them.
    Researchers say that, by using the forecasts of El Nino effectively, officials might be able to predict possible outbreaks of violence and be more prepared to handle them.

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Rosanne Skirble

    A new study in the journal Nature finds that war is associated with global climate.

    Researchers from Princeton University and the Earth Institute at Columbia University focused on the natural climate cycle known as El Nino Southern Oscillation, or ENSO. This periodic warming of Pacific Ocean waters occurs every three to five years - alternating with cooling periods known as La Nina.

    The authors tallied some 234 conflicts across 175 countries in Africa, the Middle East, South East Asia, South Pacific and the Americas where more than 25 people were killed in a given year. Half the conflicts caused more than 1,000 battle-related deaths.

    Lead author and Princeton University researcher Solomon Hsiang says the work is the first to document a correlation between climate and civil unrest on a global scale in modern times.  “When we went back and looked through the data since 1950 approximately one-in-five civil conflicts were influenced by El Nino.”

    That's double the rate of conflict in La Nina years.  

    Hsiang didn’t expect the magnitude of the effect to be so large. “What it really says is that not only does the climate affect conflict, it’s a major factor in determining global patterns of violence.”

    The study does not suggest that climate alone triggers war. But, Hsiang says, combined with other factors it can deliver the final blow.

    “It’s very important to remember that political situations, social situations, economic conditions are all very important to the onset of organized violence. But what we are finding is that those things when combined with climatic changes seem to make violence more likely.”

    Halvard Buhaug, an expert on security and climate issues at the Peace Research Institute in Oslo, Norway, says the correlation between climate and conflictis credible. But he adds that if climate is driving violence, the study authors fail to explain why.

    “I think it is imperative to demonstrate that food availability, food prices, crop production etc., vary systematically with these ENSO cycles in areas where we do observe conflict that are sensitive to the ENSOs. Unless we are able to establish that connection, I think it’s too early to claim a causal relationship here.”

    Solomon Hsiang agrees. He says the strong association between climate and conflict deserves more study. “Now what we’re doing is we’re pulling together new datasets and we’re doing additional research to try and dig deeper and figure out what are the underlying mechanisms that are really producing this result.”

    Forecasters can now predict with greater certainty an El Nino or La Nina cycle two years in advance. Hsiang says the results could have important implications for agriculture and relief services.

    “If governments, international organizations or aid groups are able to use those forecasts, the forecasts of El Nino effectively, they might be able to either prepare populations on the ground or themselves prepare their own resources to be in a better situation when conflict breaks out.”

    Hsiang believes that information needs to be taken seriously. He notes that forecasters were able to predict the current famine in the Horn of Africa two years ago, but not enough aid arrived in time to mitigate the human cost of the crisis.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Borderi
    X
    July 22, 2016 12:30 AM
    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.
    Video

    Video Number of Syrian Refugees Arriving in US Jumps

    The United States is committed to resettling 85,000 refugees from around the world by October. Of that number, 10,000 will come from Syria and already some 4,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in the United States, many of them settling in the state of Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from Chicago, their arrival is not the end of a difficult journey to find peace and stability.
    Video

    Video Rio’s Trams Await Olympic Tourists

    Over the past century, many cities around the world replaced electric trams, prone to breakdowns and backups, with faster and more spacious buses. But for some reason restored antique trams are a huge tourist attraction. So it’s no wonder the authorities in Rio de Janeiro are busy restoring their city’s old tram line ahead of the Summer Olympic Games. VOA’ George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora