Quantifying the Influence of Climate on Human Conflict

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 8:05 AM
Solomon M Hsiang, Marshall Burke and Edward Miguel, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, United States
A rapidly growing body of research examines whether human conflict can be affected by climatic changes. Drawing from archaeology, criminology, economics, geography, history, political science, and psychology, we assemble and analyze the most rigorous quantitative studies and document, for the first time, a striking convergence of results. We find strong causal evidence linking climatic events to human conflict across a range of spatial and temporal scales and across all major regions of the world. The magnitude of climate’s influence is substantial: for each one standard deviation (1sd) change in climate toward warmer temperatures or more extreme rainfall, median estimates indicate that the frequency of interpersonal violence rises 4% and the frequency of intergroup conflict rises 14%. Because locations throughout the inhabited world are expected to warm 2sd to 4sd by 2050, amplified rates of human conflict could represent a large and critical impact of anthropogenic climate change.