This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Friday, August 26, 2011

Researchers Have Linked Climate Change and Conflict

A new research paper in Nature is reported to be the first to find a statistically significant relationship between climate change and conflict. The researchers, Solomon M. Hsaing, Kyle C. Meng, and Mark A. Crane, from Princeton and Columbia Universities, "looked at data on conflicts between 1950 and 2004 that killed more than 25 people in a year. They compared El Niño years, which happen roughly every five years, with La Niña years. El Niño tends to bring hotter, drier conditions - and La Niña cooler ones - to tropical countries, but both have less of an influence on temperate countries. The analysis included 175 countries and 234 conflicts, over half of which caused more than 1000 deaths. It found that the risk of conflict in tropical countries rose from 3 per cent during La Niña years to 6 per cent during El Niño years. The effect was absent from countries only weakly affected by these climate cycles."


The link between climate change and conflict is probably not a direct one, and the researchers were not able to nail down cause-and-effect relationships, but they do have some possible explanations in mind:
Lead author Solomon Hsiang of Columbia's Earth Institute said El Nino was an invisible factor -- but not the only one -- in driving intra-border conflict.By causing crop losses, hurricane damage or helping to spread epidemics of water-borne disease, it amplified hunger, loss, unemployment and inequality, which in turn fuelled resentment and division.
Other factors that could affect risk and the outcome are the country's population growth and prosperity and whether its government is able to manage El Nino events properly.
"Even though we control for all of these factors simultaneously, we still find that there's a large and pervasive El Nino effect on civil conflicts," Hsiang said in a teleconference.
Although the current crisis in the Horn of Africa occurred beyond the parameters of the study, it was a "perfect example" of the hidden destruction of an El Nino.
"Forecasters two years ago predicted that there would be a famine in Somalia this year, but donors in the international aid community did not take that forecast seriously," said Hsiang.

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