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.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs