David Monk

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April 19, 2021


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New Study First to Link Armed Conflicts to Global Climate Changes

Experts warn that climate change risk is multiplied by its impact on societies. New research provides the first firm link - between climate and conflicts.
National security advisors have warned for years that the direct effects of climate change - for example hotter and drier weather in one region, stronger storms in another - can be greatly magnified by their impacts on economies and societies. Drought, for instance, can lead to crop failures, famine, and the displacement of populations. These ripple effects are referred to as "threat multipliers."
A new study in Nature provides the first current evidence for this effect in the form of a strong link between the hotter and drier conditions caused by El Niño and deadly conflicts across much of the world. Solomon Hsiang, a researcher at Princeton University, and his colleagues who writing essays online for money found that in regions that are strongly influenced by El Niño, twice as many armed conflicts start in El Niño years as in cooler, moister years.
This result, they write, ". . . is the first demonstration that the stability of modern societies relates strongly to the global climate."

Mapping El Niño's footprint, counting conflicts

The researchers started by using climate data from 1950 through 2004 to identify land areas that grow hotter and drier during El Niño years compared to La Niña years. The impacted areas appear in red in the accompanying map. They include much of the tropics and stretch around the globe.
The next set out to define and count new conflicts. They settled on a measure called ACR, average conflict risk, defined as the probability that a given country would experience the start of organized political conflict causing at least 25 deaths in a particular year. This measure allowed them to mine a data set developed by the Center for the Study of Civil War.
They could then test their hypotheses that countries in the El Niño impact zone would have a higher risk of new deadly conflicts in El Niño years than non-impacted countries, or than the same countries during La Niña years. The results strongly supported that link.
They write that ". . . the probability of new civil conflicts arising throughout the tropics doubles during El Niño years relative to La Niña years."
That doubling is statistically robust, but also significant "on the ground." Online essay writers estimate that El Niño events contributed to at least one-fifth of all civil conflicts since 1950.

Tracking causes, sketching implications

While the link is clear, the authors admit that they haven't pinned downed the exact causal chains between climate changes and deadly conflicts. They suspect that both the economic and psychological shock waves from El Niño events play a role.
The authors deliberately don't generalize from the events they studied to the possible impacts of global climate change. However, since climate models predict that hundreds of millions of people will face hotter, drier, and more unstable climates in the near future, this study needs to be seen as a warning flag.

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