Can unusually warm weather help cause wars? Researchers at Columbia University’s Earth Institute have published a study suggesting that may, in fact, be the case: hot weather facilitates war. El Niño shows up every three to seven years along with higher temperatures and decreased rainfall. According to the study, El Niño doubles the risk of civil wars across 90 tropical countries. The authors say it may have helped start a fifth of worldwide conflicts in the last 50 years.
“If you have social inequality, people are poor, and there are underlying tensions, it seems possible that climate can deliver the knockout punch,” Solomon Hsiang, the study’s lead author, said.
Wars are triggered by a complex cascade of events that include political, monetary, and ethnic reasons but, importantly, control of resources. While the study doesn’t suggest that weather alone can cause wars (which would be an absurd premise), it does makes sense that the droughts brought by El Niño, puts extra pressure on the root causes. Events like droughts put strain on food and water resources, which can cause conflict. Natural disasters can also cause disease, famine, and economic distress, which may create tensions between factions.
The future does not bode well for the world when the effects of climate change escalate and intensify.