Climate change and Violence

A report, released by the journal Science cites the correlation between extreme climate and weather events with an increase in aggression and violence.

„A rapidly growing body of research examines whether human conflict can be affected by climatic changes. Drawing from archaeology, criminology, economics, geography, history, political science, and psychology, we assemble and analyze the 60 most rigorous quantitative studies and document, for the first time, a striking convergence of results. We find strong causal evidence linking climatic events to human conflict across a range of spatial and temporal scales and across all major regions of the world. The magnitude of climate’s influence is substantial: for each one standard deviation change in climate toward warmer temperatures or more extreme rainfall, median estimates indicate that the frequency of interpersonal violence rises 4% and the frequency of intergroup conflict rises 14%. Because locations throughout the inhabited world are expected to warm 2s to 4s by 2050, amplified rates of human conflict could represent a large and critical impact of anthropogenic climate change.“

When I read this article, I was not very convinced, that this correlation can be predicted.

Then I remembered a notice in the german newspapers, that the violence against climate migrants have more than doubled (130%) over the last few years. Also the hate speech in the social media against migrants has increased enormously.

And then I connected the increasing indifference towards the monthly increasing number of drowning migrants in the mediterranean with the increasing violence. 2018 2.300 Migrants drowned in the Mediterranean.  And rescued migrants are often not allowed to disembark.

Some scientists also attribute the 2011 unrest in Syria to the extreme drought there between 2006 and 2009.

The Iowa State University Distinguished Professor of Psychology Craig Anderson and Andreas Miles-Novelo, an ISU graduate student and lead author, identified three ways climate change will increase the likelihood of violence, based on established models of aggression and violence. Their research is published in the journal Current Climate Change Reports.

Anderson says the first route is the most direct: higher temperatures increase irritability and hostility, which can lead to violence. The other two are more indirect and stem from the effects of climate change on natural disasters, failing crops and economic instability. A natural disaster, such as a hurricane or wildfire, does not directly increase violence, but the economic disruption, displacement of families and strain on natural resources that result are what Anderson finds problematic.

One indirect way natural disasters increase violence is through the development of babies, children and adolescents into violence-prone adults, he said. For example, poor living conditions, disrupted families and inadequate prenatal and child nutrition are risk factors for creating violence-prone adults. Anderson and Miles-Novelo noted these risk factors will become more prevalent as a result of climate change-induced disasters, such as hurricanes, droughts, floods, water shortages and changing agricultural practices for efficient production of food. 

Another indirect effect: Some natural disasters are so extensive and long term that large groups of people are forced to migrate from their homeland. Anderson says this “eco-migration” creates intergroup conflicts over resources, which may result in political violence, civil wars or wars between nations.

“This is a global issue with very serious consequences. We need to plan for ways to reduce the negative impacts,” Anderson said.

He fears, that the third effect – he eco-migration and conflict -could be the most destructive.

“The view that citizens of wealthy countries often have about refugees needs to change — from seeing them as a threat to a view that emphasizes humanitarian values and the benefits refugees bring when they are welcomed into the community,” Anderson said.

We have all noticed the increased irritability and aggression in us during the heat of the last summers. Similarly, the willingness to aggression has increased as a result of the influx of refugees.

Lise Van Susteren, a trained forensic psychologist with a focus on climate psychology says the kind of simplistic, us-versus-them ideology that typifies fascism appeals to people who are fearful and anxious.

“We regress when we’re fearful,” she says, whether that manifests as clinging to “strong” leaders with extremist views or expressing our vulnerability through anger at selective scapegoats.

“The dangers associated with global warming are hardly limited to wet feet. When something as fundamental as planetary physics transforms, it can undo the basic functioning of society. The sense of that loss of control, to put it simply, drives people nuts.”

Climate change is deeply, existentially frightening, to the point where it can shut down what could be considered normal human psychological functioning.

But even if you theoretically felt so desperate about the state of environmental collapse, so afraid of threats to food or water or wealth, it still wouldn’t make any sense to attack those who, just like you, have little to no control over it.“

Not surprisingly, racism, sexism, classism, and ableism have long fed into the history of the environmental “population control” movement. And tragically, some people have taken this kind of thinking to even more destructive extremes, says Eve Andrews in

For those with a surface-level understanding of human population growth, this can make groups of people with higher birth rates (such as those in developing countries) easy targets for climate scolding. In the U.S., that ire has largely been directed at more recent immigrants and their descendants, who, according to the Pew Research Center, are projected to account for 88 percent of U.S. population growth through 2065. Is it a coincidence that these scapegoats are mostly nonwhite?

Never mind the fact that the strongest indicator of a person’s consumption — and their carbon footprint — is wealth. The reason you don’t see anyone holds the billionaires accountable is that demographic changes also stoke a protectionist fear: that a rich country needs to protect its supposedly threatened resources from those perceived to be needy newcomers….

So-called eco-fascists aren’t trying to challenge the power structures that created climate change in any meaningful way; they’re simply trying to lash out at those more vulnerable than them. “If we just think about this through a psychological lens, it’s easier to attack those groups that are being positioned as very ‘other’ than it is those closer to the world in which [the attacker] may associate or benefit or relate to,” says Renee Lertzman, a social climate psychologist.

The world is increasingly at risk of “climate apartheid”, where the rich pay to escape heat and hunger caused by the escalating climate crisis while the rest of the world suffers, a report from a UN human rights expert says.

Philip Alston, UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said the impacts of global heating are likely to undermine not only basic rights to life, water, food, and housing for hundreds of millions of people, but also democracy and the constitutional legality .

Alston is critical of the “patently inadequate” steps taken by the UN itself, countries, NGOs and businesses, saying they are “entirely disproportionate to the urgency and magnitude of the threat”. His report to the UN human rights council (HRC) concludes: “Human rights might not survive the coming upheaval.”

“Yet democracy and the constitutional legality, as well as a wide range of civil and political rights are every bit at risk,” Alston’s report said. “The risk of community discontent, of growing inequality, and of even greater levels of deprivation among some groups, will likely stimulate nationalist, xenophobic, racist and other responses. Maintaining a balanced approach to civil and political rights will be extremely complex.”

The impacts of the climate crisis could increase divisions, Alston said. “We risk a ‘climate apartheid’ scenario…“

Ashfaq Khalfan at Amnesty International said: “Climate change is a human rights issue precisely because of the impact it’s having on people. The primary obligation to protect people from human rights harms lies with states. A state that fails to take any feasible steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is violating their human rights obligations.”

Jem Bendell, Climate Scientist and Founder of Deep Adaptation – after a sabbatical year of studying climate science reports – has concluded, that we face a collapse of our society as we know it now – caused by the climate catastrophy with mass migration, stravation, water shortage, floodings etc. – all factors that may lead to violence.

Its “time to consider the implications of it being too late to avert a global catastrophe in the lifetimes of people alive today” , he says and suggests Deep Adaptation to that change, in a non-violent way.

And Roger Hallam, cofounder of Extinction Rebellion studied effective ways to reach politicians to act accordingly. Extinction Rebellion Rebells against a failing system by non-violent but disruptive actions. Extinction Rebellion Members are committed to non-violence and solidarity – this is important for preventing violence in the face of social collaps by the cilmate change.

Joanna Macy, founder of DEEP ECOLOGY ( says:

“Of all the dangers we face, from climate chaos to nuclear war, none is so great as the deadening of our response” – our human and compassionate response, I might add.