Climate Change / Drought

‘One more reason to build the richer, resilient societies that can weather risk’–Time Magazine

USA - climate change canvas

Artists from around the world have painted canvases illustrating the human impact of climate change in their countries. Sixteen of these canvases were exhibited at UN climate negotiations in Poznan, Poland, in December 2008 (artist: Ashley Cecil; image on Flickr by Piotr Fajfer / Oxfam International).

Bryan Walsh delves into a rich discussion of the possible correlations between climate change and civil conflicts in Time Magazine‘s Ecocentric Blog.

‘. . . In a study published in the August 24 Nature, researchers from Princeton University and Columbia University’s Earth Institute looked at the impact of the El Nino climate cycle on civil conflict over the past half-century. (Quick background: El Nino is one half of the El Nino-Southern Oscillation cycle, or ENSO, which involves the periodic warming and cooling of the tropical Pacific Ocean. The El Nino phase—which occurs every three to seven years—tends to bring unusually high temperatures and dry weather to tropical countries.) The Nature researchers found that the arrival of an El Nino phase doubled the risk of civil conflict across 90 affected tropical countries, and may help account for a fifth of worldwide conflicts over the past half-century. “This is the first major evidence that the global climate is a major factor in organized violence around the world,” says Solomon Hsiang, an expert in sustainable development and the study’s lead author.

‘Scientists and writers have suspected that strong climatic or environmental change can trigger conflict, and even cause societies to fall. In his great book Collapse, Jared Diamond argued that unusually long and punishing droughts—in addition to population pressures—may have helped virtually wipe out the Anasazi Indians in the American Southwest. . . .

‘But Hsiang and his colleagues say they’ve managed to nail down a more persuasive case with current data, arguing that climate changes can still have a strong effect on conflict even in the modern era, when we’re more insulated from the effects of weather. . . .

‘The Nature researchers are right that even today, we’re still more vulnerable to the weather and to the climate than we might think—but that’s one more reason to build the richer, resilient societies that can weather that risk.’

Read the whole article on the Time Magazine‘s Ecocentric Blog: Does El Nino—and Climate Change—Really Cause Civil Wars?, 24 Aug 2011.

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