It is rare that climate change is the only trigger for the creation of conflicts. However, a new book from researchers at Iowa State University details the link between heat stress and human violence, and calls for a more serious focus on the need to be prepared. people for climate impacts.
The book, “Climate Change and Human Behavior,” draws on decades of research to explain how extreme heat and weather alter the way people think and act. The authors argue that climate impacts can lead to individual violence, but can also cause escalation of political unrest, civil wars and other forms of communal violence.
“Heat stress causes people to act more aggressively,” says Dr. Craig Anderson, professor of psychology at the university. “We can see this happening on a larger scale across all geographies and over time.”
The case of Syria
In one example, Anderson and his co-author, graduate student Andreas Miles-Novelo, argue that the civil war in Syria and the resulting migration crisis in Europe originated in an extreme drought that affected farmers.
“Much of the rural population has moved to cities in search of work, food and water, but an already unstable government has failed to prepare for the influx of people, which led to competition for resources such as jobs and housing, which led to political change, unrest and eventual civil war,” Miles-Novelo said.
He admits that the Syrian case is a bit simplistic, and many who have studied the relationship between climate and conflict agree. The data does not directly link the two, and researchers are still struggling to understand exactly how clashes over resources contribute to violent outbreaks, or shape tensions within communities, as they respond to recent epidemics arrived due to forced and internal migrations. shift.
“Scientists generally agree that climate change does not directly cause armed conflict, but that it can indirectly increase the risk of conflict by exacerbating existing social, economic and environmental factors,” explains the International Climate Change Committee. Red Cross (ICRC).
Climate change affects the human brain
Anderson and Miles-Novelo’s new book explains how heat affects the human brain and explains an increase in violent crime amid rising temperatures, linking it to other known factors including nutrition, stress of childhood and family breakdown, poverty and economic challenges.
“What struck me when I really started digging into this about a decade ago is how many risk factors for violence in adulthood are going to become much more common due to climate change. fast,” Anderson said.
He explains that one of the goals of the book is to clarify how these human costs relate to climate change and how basic psychological concepts “can be used to reduce both the number of global warming problems and the human violence that stem from the climate crisis. ”
The Iowa State University authors say that taking the threat of climate change seriously and being proactive about the challenges now can pay off in the future. Solutions can be as simple as supporting prenatal and postnatal nutrition programs, which can protect against some of the risk factors that can make adults vulnerable to violence later in life.
Anderson also calls on nations to be more proactive on migration, especially well-resourced nations which he says will likely see “hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people” seeking to escape climate catastrophe and related conflicts.
“There are issues that we’re going to have to take more seriously in the United States and around the world as climate change drives more eco-migration,” Anderson said. “The problems we see now are relatively small compared to what will happen in the next 50 years.”
By Lauren Fagan. Articles in English