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August 24, 2013 | By:  Samantha Jakuboski
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Are You Hotheaded? Blame Global Warming.

Have you ever gotten so angry with a person that you just wanted to sock him in the face? Beeped the car horn in the most impatient

and obnoxious way when the car in front of you did not move the second the light turned green? Screamed the most hurtful insults during a fight or disagreement that later, you wished you had never said? Wouldn't it be great if we could just blame our anger and embarrassing wrath on something else, so that we could be more at peace with ourselves? Well, look no further, because according to a new meta-analysis published in Science, we can now attribute all of our hostile feelings, and even war, to global warming. This study has linked the rise in Earth's temperature and its effects on rainfall to violence and human conflict.

The meta-analysis evaluated 60 studies from countries around the globe; some of these studies even went back hundreds of years to the ancient Mayan civilization and Cambodia's Khmer civilization. After reanalyzing these selected studies, the researchers discovered patterns of human belligerence: "for each 1 standard deviation (1σ) change in climate toward warmer temperatures or more extreme rainfall," aggression and violence in interpersonal groups rises 4 percent, and aggression rises 14 percent between people of different social groups (intergroup violence.).

Why does temperature change make us so bellicose?

As of now, researchers have not yet determined the "why" aspect of this phenomenon. However, there are a few speculations circulating about. One conjecture involves the effect temperature and rainfall changes have on one's economy and agriculture. During a drought, farms tend to be less productive- since most of the crops die- so there are more unemployed people out and about on the streets. These people may then become distressed from unemployment, and since they have plenty of time on their hands, they can plan a rebellion and overthrow the government. The plethora of tropical civil wars during the late 1900s are thought to be linked to such changes in climate, tropical cycles, and El Nino. The Mayan civilization is another example of how droughts can affect a society, because after undergoing a series of droughts caused by changes in the climate, it suffered from political instability, which led to its demise. Another hypothesis, that is mainly relevant to people living in earlier eras, is that climate change causes people to migrate to different countries, and in doing so, they begin to fight those countries' people for resources and land. Or, what about the simple reason that people just tend to be more irritable when it is really hot out. I know that when I am very hot and tired, I tend to be a bit more cranky and short-tempered. (Am I the only one who feels like this?) Now imagine a whole society of grouchy people...

What does this all mean for the world's future?

If the temperature continues to rise due to the emission of greenhouse gases, then we should expect to see a rise in the acts of violence in the years to come. Whether in the form of wars, rapes, homicides, political instability, or the unceasing noise of irritable people blowing their horns in the street, acts of aggression and hostility will become even more common. The researchers of this study estimated that an increase of 2 degrees Celsius can increase group conflicts by more than 50 percent, and personal crimes can increase by 15 percent.

However, this study does NOT guarantee that any of the predictions put forth will happen. Like most science ideas, it is merely a hypothesis that needs way more evidence and accord within the science community before it is truly accepted. Nevertheless, it is better to be safe then sorry, so I am hoping that this study allows people to look at global warming from a different perspective. I understand that some people, especially those that live inland, might think that rising sea levels will not affect them, so hopefully this study will allow them to view global warming from a new angle, and give them the personal motive to live greener lives.

What are your thoughts about this study? Do you think that there really is a correlation between global warming and an increase in acts of violence? Some people believe that this study makes sweeping conclusions, and that there is not enough solid evidence; do you agree? Please share your thoughts below. I am very curious to see what you have to say about this very interesting- and controversial-topic.

Picture Credits:

Gun picture: Moyan Brenn (via Flickr)

Drought Picture: Crane Station (via Flickr)


Hsiang, Solomon; Burke, Marshall; Miguel, Edward "Quantifying the Influence of Climate on Human Conflict" Science August 1, 2013

Hsiang, Solomon; Meng, Kyle; Cane, Mark "Civil Conflicts Are Associated With The Global Climate" Nature August 25, 2011

Khazan, Olga "Hotter Weather Actually Makes Us Want To Kill Each Other" The

Atlantic August 1, 2013

Morelle, Rebecca "Rise in Violence ‘Linked to Climate Change'" BBC News Science and Environment August 2, 2013

Schiermeier, Quirin "Climate Cycles Drive Civil War" Nature August 24, 2011

Than, Ker "Wars, Murders to Rise Due to Global Warming" National Geographic August 1, 2013

1 Comment
August 29, 2013 | 01:54 PM
Posted By:  Sedeer el-Showk
I can believe there's a correlation between rising temperatures and violent/aggressive behaviour, but I'm not convinced that one causes the other. Temperature and rainfall depend to a large extent on latitude, and lots of things seem to correlate with latitude. My gut feeling is that there's something else mediating these correlations...though I could be wrong, of course.

Having said that, I do think global warming (or climate change) will lead to more violence and aggression. As you pointed out, many people will be displaced and we'll probably also be fighting over dwindling resources. Yes, we should worry -- and not just those of us living near the coast!
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