A study just released suggests that extreme weather due to climate change could by fueling armed conflicts around the world especially in less than politically stable countries.

Climate Change
Image source: Pixabay

Weather, climate change driving war around the world?

There is little question that climate change is real and while the last two years’ temperatures could simply be an anomaly, they are the warmest two years on record. In a new study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers have showed that nearly 25% of armed conflicts in countries with diverse ethnic populations in the three decades spanning 1980 to 2010 occurred shortly after a drought, heatwave or other extreme weather event.

“We’ve been surprised by the extent that results for ethnic fractionalized countries stick out, compared to other country features such as conflict history, poverty, or inequality,” said Dr Jonathan Donges a Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research scientist and co-author of the new study.

“We think that ethnic divides may serve as a predetermined conflict line when additional stressors like natural disasters kick in, making multi-ethnic countries particularly vulnerable to the effect of such disasters,” he continued.

“It’s significant that you can make that statement—that nearly 25 percent of those conflicts coincided with some type of climate-related disaster.”

“What’s much more important is that this number is highly statistically significant and robust,” Donges said. “You cannot explain it by chance.”

Afghanistan and Liberia are examples of these “ethnically fractionalized countries” the researchers wrote about in their paper. While culture and religion, or in the case of Afghanistan drugs, are certainly responsible for some of the conflicts in these two countries, resource scarcity and extreme weather also exist.

Professor John Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, point out that this cultural and religious diversity and extreme weather are an “explosive mixture.”

Research backs up other studies

Professor Solomon Hsiang from the University of California Berkeley published a study in 2011 that showed that climate change was responsible for 20% of the world’s civil wars since 1950.

If these two studies hold water, this could become even worse in the next century that is sure to be warmer than the last and will also a significant rise in sea levels. This warming and sea level rise will see large portions of the world become uninhabitable and human nature dictates a move rather than death. With these forced moves you’ll likely see further ethnic diversity as well as the strife caused by an influx of refugees. I’m not sure I’ve ever read the expression “weather refugees” but I’m ready to coin it.

I’m not blaming people for not wanting to, say, live in Syria at present but you’ve surely seen the rise of right wing groups in Eastern Europe, and for that matter, in the United States with Donald Trump’s fear mongering over Syrian refugees. In Trump’s defense (words I never thought I would type and pray I won’t again) events throughout Europe last year and Germany this week make him look almost look smart in his racism.

“Conflicts hamper development, and cause widespread fear and terror,” said Jonas Nordkvelle, a researcher at the Peace Research Institute Oslo. The researchers involved in this study used the Peace Research Institute’s database on armed conflicts. “If we know which factors contribute, maybe we can prevent conflicts from erupting—or limit their scope.”

Let’s hope so.