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Earth Science

Climate Change Driving War? 178

Posted by Soulskill
from the driving-an-suv-is-now-an-act-of-war dept.
New submitter Stirling Newberry writes "You may have heard of The Great Moderation (PDF), which argues that business cycles have become less volatile over time, and the Green Revolution, a set of initiatives that led to increased global food production. These, it has been argued, have led to a marked decrease in war across the world. But not so fast, says a study in Science. It may well be that periods of war, past and present, can be linked to changes in climate: 'The most direct way in which extreme climate shifts influence human society is through agriculture, Zhang says; a falling supply of crops will drive up the price of gold and cause inflation. Similarly, epidemics can be exacerbated by famine. And when people are miserable, they are likely to become angry with their governments and each other, resulting in war. But golden ages rise out of these dark periods, the team argues. For instance, a 100-year cold period beginning in 1560 caused shortened crop growing seasons. The researchers found a causal linkage with a decline in average human height by nearly an inch during this period, and the century was rife with disease and conflict. But the world began to warm in 1650; when Charles II was crowned king of England in 1660, the coronation sparked the Enlightenment era in Europe.'"
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Climate Change Driving War?

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  • at least they were doing God's will and the Enlightenment was such a cool time

    -I'm just sayin'
    • by Cryacin (657549)
      Well, hopefully we'll have backed up enough knowledge off of electronic media before the big war begins. It won't be hard for us to reproduce a human, but reproducing a combustion engine will be a bit more difficult one or two generations down the line.
    • by tehcyder (746570)

      at least they were doing God's will and the Enlightenment was such a cool time -I'm just sayin'

      The cool thing about the Enlightenment was that it prepared the way for the abolition of both God and Kings.

  • This makes me want to go play a round of Civilization V lol.
  • by unity100 (970058) on Tuesday October 04, 2011 @06:14PM (#37606040) Homepage Journal
    and age of enlightenment. First, age of enlightenment doesnt start well into 18th century.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_Enlightenment [wikipedia.org]

    second, precursors of age of enlightenment that are recounted in the above article were already there, starting with early pioneers like erasmus, and going into spinoza, long before charles ii and 1660.

    please dont make up ahistoric shit to back up loose arguments.
    • by Stirling Newberry (848268) on Tuesday October 04, 2011 @09:14PM (#37607646) Homepage Journal
      The terms "Enlightenment" and "Age of Reason" are not so precisely demarcated, many scholars use a long age of enlightenment to mean from the 1650s forward, and others divide into two. This is part of the "lumpers/splitters" problem, that some people like small units, others like large ones. The Wikipedia article takes the lumpers point of view, but that isn't universal. However, it is generally believed in history that the Peace of Westphalia and the coming of absolutism and the "age of Reason" are linked, and that while there were precursors to this, in the form of say King James I of England's The True Law of Free Monarchy and the policies in France, that the turbulence of the Thirty Years War was the trigger for a more general change. So why that war happened, as it did, is an important question, if climate was part of that answer –and more broadly, if climate fluctuations show a correlation to political events, then it changes the notion of what historians, economists, sociologists and political scientists need to study and include in their works. Never again will an author be able to wave their hand and dismiss as anecdotal accounts of climate, because now we have better ability to reconstruct. And if climate isn't a factor, then that too is something that needs to be shown, not just assumed.

      In terms of climate and history, for a long time there have been observations of linkage between historical periods and climatic events, one of the most famous of these is the period of reduced growing periods known as the "Little Ice Age" and the destabilization of the medieval order on Eurasia. Another more specific one is the relationship between the volcanic eruptions of the 1770's and 1780's and cold snaps that led to poor harvests as a contributing factor to the fall of the ancien regime. Franklin speculated at the time that the eruptions were leading to cold, and Talleyrand famously quipped that "we are all dancing on a volcano," in reference to the problems of the ancien regime in France and poor harvests which were driving inflation in food and social instability.

      However, until recently there were not good paleo-climate reconstructions. Paleo-climatology is a fundamentally computational discipline – it is computers and algorythms by which chronologies are constructed and pieced together: from dendrology, that is trees, ice cores, and other "proxies" for climate. The survey linked to is one of the first, but by no means the last. This is important because much of history has been outside of a real test of theories as to why what happened. As computational climatology matures, it provides a challenge to the dominant view in history, economics, and sociology, that internal factors drive history and events, and a way to apply scientific measurements. Since chronology, and dates, are often "floating" – that is, we don't really know what certain dates in the past were, only our best guesses, it means that instead of arguments over texts, we are getting measurements, and ultimately facts, to determine when events occured. If you see a date before about 1300 BC in a history text, assume it is approximate, simply because our understanding of what dates were is based on reconstructions. That is best guesses.

      One of the most important examples of how this matters is in the coming of what is now called the "Neo-lithic Revolution." For a long time it was seen as an internally driven event, however, recent discoveries show that "The Younger Dryas" coincided with the explosion of domestication of plants and animals, but also how many of the first domestication events: figs, rye, dogs, and perhaps goats, were not in the present warm and stable climate era, but in the colder but relatively stable Younger Dryas period. Perhaps, and one has to say perhaps, what later became agriculture started not because it was a good deal, but because times were harder, but more consistent, and the peoples around the world started domestication because it was a cushion when hunting and gathering were not e

    • Your heading/statement, I agree with.

      Sorry, I'm not going to get all academic here, and start searching for references - but I can't see that any royalty ever had much to do with "enlightenment". Royalty was always conservative in the true sense of the word, rather than the common political sense that we see today. Royalty didn't voluntarily decide that it would be nice to free the serfs. Instead, the serfs held royalty at sword point, and demanded freedom.

      Ehh. Enlightenment. Whatever.

      However, I do bel

  • by Kohath (38547) on Tuesday October 04, 2011 @06:15PM (#37606050)

    NY Times [nytimes.com]:

    KICUCULA, Uganda — According to the company’s proposal to join a United Nations clean-air program, the settlers living in this area left in a “peaceful” and “voluntary” manner.

    People here remember it quite differently.

    “I heard people being beaten, so I ran outside,” said Emmanuel Cyicyima, 33. “The houses were being burnt down.”

    Other villagers described gun-toting soldiers and an 8-year-old child burning to death when his home was set ablaze by security officers.

    . . .

    But in this case, the government and the company said the settlers were illegal and evicted for a good cause: to protect the environment and help fight global warming.

    If not war, at least oppression.

    • by kanto (1851816) on Tuesday October 04, 2011 @07:20PM (#37606744)
      Well obviously this is cause enough to destroy the environment. I really find it disgusting how much human suffering is ok to secure oil production and rights, but if you can link how ever strenuously an incident to environmental protection it's suddenly a policy changer. Surely it's not like the people in 3rd world countries don't get fucked ever which way by corporations legislated to be sociopaths?
  • Gwynne Dyer has written a book that is an excellent starting point for this issue: Climate Wars [amazon.com]. He is a journalist and military historian who spent a year or two interviewing military planners who see exactly this issue on the horizon. Check out his website for a three-part radio series [gwynnedyer.com] based on the book, for those who might not want to invest the time to read the entire book.
    • I think the idea that climate changes in general, and food issues specifically, will lead to war is pretty well accepted. Almost every war ever was started over natural resources (WW 1 being a fairly large exception), and quite a few were started over food resources (part of Hitler's goal in WW2 was to get access to more arable land in Eastern Europe).

      What I do find a bit surprising is that strong correlation between variables is deemed a causal link. It's not. A causal link is a mechanism that ties two eve

      • I think the idea that climate changes in general, and food issues specifically, will lead to war is pretty well accepted.

        When I see people talking about climate and its relationship with incidents such as the rise and fall of civilizations or wars specifically, I somewhat agree. However, I believe it is more complicated than this. My problem with such ideas is that they seem to minimize such things as the role of culture in the prosperity of a society. As an analogue, consider the debate about the role of "nature versus nurture" in the lives of children growing to adults. In the past it was argued that parenting was the m

      • by N0Man74 (1620447)

        Whether or not war actually occurs, there is insufficient evidence that man they are man-made. It is hubris to think that man has such great impact on the world, that he can unleash war and destruction around the world.

        There are many possible explanations for war that we tend to overlook. Volcanoes, sun activity, and natural cycles. We just don't have enough historical evidence to support they are man made.

        Besides, even if we accept the questionable hypothesis that war is man-made, do we know for sure th

      • by radtea (464814)

        Almost every war ever was started over natural resources (WW 1 being a fairly large exception), and quite a few were started over food resources (part of Hitler's goal in WW2 was to get access to more arable land in Eastern Europe).

        Actually, no war has ever been started over access to food resources, although I agree that is the claim that people--including Hitler--frequently use to justify war.

        No individual of any species anywhere ever kills another member of the same species over food resource competition, because it never under any circumstances makes evolutionary sense to do so. There are two reasons for this: the first is that when facing a shortage of food resources the optimal use of scare capability is to do things that will

        • Since you are bringing up monkey research, there's quite a body of work in the area of studying chimps (yes, yes, great Apes vs monkeys) and how they will actually wage war against other troops. The fight there is not over mates, but over territory, which is heavily tied to food.

      • by Carnildo (712617)

        I'd disagree that WWI was an exception: one of the big causes of the war was tension between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Russian Empire over control of the Balkans (and the resources therein).

    • Re:Climate Wars (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Black Parrot (19622) on Tuesday October 04, 2011 @08:13PM (#37607194)

      FWIW, both the US military and the US intelligence community have, in official reports, identified climate change as one of the biggest threats to national security that the US will have to deal with this century.

      What is going to be bad, IMO, is that the shift in temperature zones is gong to turn some of the agricultural "haves" into "have nots", and vice versa. Some people are going to fight that change - with guns.

      On a side note, the latest Scientific American has an article about the discovery of large deposits of rare elements in Afghanistan. My first thought was, "Oh, boy! That's really going to help stop all the fighting."

      • by khallow (566160)

        FWIW, both the US military and the US intelligence community have, in official reports, identified climate change as one of the biggest threats to national security that the US will have to deal with this century.

        Perhaps you should look at the timing [npr.org] of the reports in question. As I recall, the US now has a government which both takes AGW seriously and can compel the military to take it seriously as well. In a couple of years, we might have a new administration which doesn't take these issues as seriously. That's the problem with using official interest as an indication of the truth of an assertion.

        In the story I linked above, notice that they talk about worst case scenarios, not just stuff that we think we know

    • by Layzej (1976930)

      The Washington post gives some recent examples where spikes in global food prices, driven mainly by recent droughts and floods, are leading to violence: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/political-economy/2011/01/spike_in_global_food_prices_tr.html [washingtonpost.com]

      The state of emergency in Tunisia has economists worried that we may be seeing the beginnings of a second wave of global food riots. Battered by bad weather and increasing demand from the developing world, the global food supply system is buckling under the strain

  • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday October 04, 2011 @06:18PM (#37606096) Journal

    As the Earth heats, we can expect to find less arable land. At the same time we're running out of fossil fuels which are required for the haber process to fix nitrogen for fertilizer. With nearly 7 billion people on the planet, something is going to give. There's going to be a great deal of conflict over the few resources we haven't squandered yet.

    • by maxume (22995)

      You don't need fossil fuels to make ammonia, you can just get some hydrogen out of some water.

      Methane is a cheap convenient source for hydrogen, so it is a popular feedstock.

      So the problem is still just energy, fossil fuels aren't particularly crucial.

    • by mosb1000 (710161)

      As the Earth heats, we can expect to find less arable land.

      Care to explain this one? More heat = more precipitation, longer growing seasons, and the ability to grow crops at higher latitudes. That should mean more arable land, right?

    • Oh? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by DesScorp (410532) <.DesScorp. .at. .Gmail.com.> on Tuesday October 04, 2011 @10:03PM (#37607890) Homepage Journal

      As the Earth heats, we can expect to find less arable land.

      That's news to Africans seeing the desert go green around them [nationalgeographic.com] as it becomes more moist, not less.

      Throughout Earth's history, hot = wet, most of the time.

      • by Uberbah (647458)

        Denialists parading around anecdotes as if they were the norm? No, that's not news.

    • by dbet (1607261)
      On the other hand, as you increase atmospheric CO2, plants need less water [wattsupwiththat.com] and can grow in areas they couldn't before.
    • Actually, as the earth heats, we can expect to find more arable land. Global average temperature rise has been driven by higher lows, not lower highs (that is, the difference between the low temperature and high temperature has begun to shrink, with the lows coming up, driving up the overall average). At the most extreme scenario, if the earth became much like the Late Eocene, Antarctica would become a veritable temperate paradise viable for much more biodiversity, and the tropics (with all the plant grow

      • by Layzej (1976930)

        Actually, as the earth heats, we can expect to find more arable land.

        Yup. Great news for those parts of Canada that are currently uninhabited. Bad for the USA and South America. See figure 3 in the following link for a projection of where we can expect increased drought this century: http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2011/20110928_Butterfly.pdf [columbia.edu]

        Here is a wry post on the current drought conditions in Texas. This may be a hint of what is to come: http://blog.chron.com/climateabyss/2011/09/texas-drought-good-news-and-bad-news/ [chron.com]

        First the really good news: according to

        • See figure 3 in the following link for a projection of where we can expect increased drought this century

          You forgot, we also get increased precipitation from global warming! It'll be warmcool and drywet everywhere! :)

          Here is a wry post on the current drought conditions in Texas.

          Funny, Texas never had droughts before we started releasing CO2...

          http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/unfairpark/2011/09/chatting_with_a_noaa_meteorolo.php [dallasobserver.com]

          "The good news, Hoerling says, is that this isn't global warming. "This is not t

          • by Layzej (1976930)

            Funny, Texas never had droughts before we started releasing CO2...

            Not like this. Check out the second graph after this link to see just how far outside the bounds of normal this current drought is. It's off the chart. http://blog.chron.com/climateabyss/2011/08/texas-drought-spot-the-outlier/ [chron.com]

          • by Layzej (1976930)

            See figure 3 in the following link for a projection of where we can expect increased drought this century

            You forgot, we also get increased precipitation from global warming! It'll be warmcool and drywet everywhere! :)

            Well, where do you think the water from the areas experiencing drought will end up? Droughts often coincide with increased precipitation elsewhere.

            • by Carnildo (712617)

              Well, where do you think the water from the areas experiencing drought will end up? Droughts often coincide with increased precipitation elsewhere.

              That's not too helpful if the increased precipitation comes in the form of named storms dropping rain by the foot.

            • http://www.real-science.com/time-hockey-team-timeout [real-science.com]

              "They need to discuss strategy. NASA says that sea level is falling due to too much rain. Hansen says that sea level is rising at a record rate and will drown Manhattan by 2008. Hadley says that we are headed for a permanent drought. These clowns need a huddle to get their story straight, because they sound like a bunch of total buffoons right now."

              Well, where do you think the water from the areas experiencing drought will end up? Droughts often coincide

              • by Layzej (1976930)

                "Skeptics" tend to have difficulty with nuance. (He said it would go up but they say it went down last year... I just don't know WHO to believe!). They also tend not to read original sources but rather like to read spin from sites with unintentionally ironic names.

                You have referenced a NASA post that confirm exactly what I noted above (that droughts come with floods), and is exactly consistent with everything Hanson has ever published (regardless of what someone may recall from a conversation that he may

    • Actually, as the earth heats, the vast majority of it is water which will evaporate from the oceans. That moisture is going to result in not only more rain over land, but also more snow, causing more reflection and colder winters on land. That's a very simple model and not every place is going to have the same results from the earth heating up. As has been said, there will be some winner and some losers. If the amount of land that is becoming desert is less than that receiving more rain than usual or is mor
    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      As the Earth heats, we can expect to find less arable land.

      Oh, really? I just see an assertion here that's contrary to reality in many ways, and thus invalid. You basically seem to be basing your opinion (as many people do) on "deserts are hot!"

      So are rain forests. Believe it or not, crops like a lot of heat, which is why the non-arid parts of California tend to have a lot of them and in colder regions, people depend on at least a couple weeks of good heat every summer to make their crops flourish. In the higher latitudes, people will use cold frames and greenhouse

  • I haven't read TFA yet, but what's with the "but not so fast, says a study in Science" bit?

    There's a theory that economic stability combined with a surplus of food production leads to less war and conflict. Science's study claims (according to the summary) that changes in climate in the past have disrupted crops, leading to food deficits, and that has resulted in more war and conflict. When the climate changed again and food surpluses increased, less war and conflict.

    It seems like the theory and the stu
    • You missed the part where the economic theories screwed Science's girlfriend, so Science hit the economic theories over the head with a folding chair, but then Slashdot ran into the ring and broke everything up. Then Science challenged the theories to settle it once and for all, in the cage at this weekend's Pay Per View event. Agreement, my ass! This is serious conflict.

  • by blair1q (305137) on Tuesday October 04, 2011 @06:28PM (#37606216) Journal

    And then blame the smog of war?

  • to subtle for /.

  • by jc42 (318812) on Tuesday October 04, 2011 @07:02PM (#37606562) Homepage Journal

    For example, the past couple decades of local wars in the Sahel are conventionally attributed to the spreading of the desert. People there have faced the choice of staying home and starving, or moving south, where the land is already at carrying capacity and the people are prepared to defend their barely-livable land from the armed refugees from up north.

    Similarly, the Viking excursions are typically explained by the increasing population in Scandinavia (and the first significant adoption of agriculture there) in the 8th and 9th centuries, followed by decades in which the crops mostly failed. Again, the Norse had the choice of staying home and starving, or sailing away and looking for better places to live. But all those places were already inhabited, so it was really a choice of starve at home or fight abroad.

    So what's new about this story? Isn't it just a repeat of much of our history? Or at least, it's a repeat of our explanations for much of our history.

  • Is there anything that the shameless left claims is not effected by climate change? What a racket!
    • Is there anything that the shameless left claims is not effected by climate change? What a racket!

      I claim that a lot of people's minds aren't affected by climate change.

  • The situation in Darfur is an example of conflict caused by climate change. As the traditional areas the nomadic people used dried out they were forced to move south into areas where farmers were. We can expect more of it in the future.

    • Fair enough, but you could make the same case for the fall of the Thracians, or the Inca or the Maya or any number of conflicts before the industrial age.

      Yes, climate change can cause conflict (and Jared Diamond does a great job showing examples in his book "Collapse"). Yes, we can expect more of it in the future, because just as climate changed 1000 years ago, it will continue to change for the next 1000 years.

      Jumping from that to "climate is going to change more/worse because of human activity" is a stre

  • All led by the US run-away fiat currency (inflation), housing bubbles, wars and the European style of socialism. Of course we have no money left to give away. The middle east was always sucking of the financial tit of the west (investments and donations). Only when the nipples started producing less milk did they start to cry. So ya, Arab Spring was bound to happen in such a global financial environment.

  • Because I was sure it was the shitty job our crooked politicians are doing that is the reason citizens are becoming increasingly unhappy with the US government, when all along it was just "climate change".
  • I guess Eve, Lillith and all the other woman-spawns out there are off the hook.

    At least for now...

  • "when Charles II was crowned king of England in 1660, the coronation sparked the Enlightenment era in Europe"

    Talk about Anglocentrism! Are they sure it was not the fact that he was crowned king of Scotland and Wales at the same time that caused the Enlightenment?
  • Will shank anyone who might prevent them. Also, fire bad, tree pretty.
  • by Max_W (812974) on Wednesday October 05, 2011 @05:35AM (#37610176)

    Changing physical state of matter requires a lot of energy. When we dry linen or clothes in an electrical drier, the liquid, water, changes into the gas, steam. Then the steam has to be evacuated from fabric by a fan, then condensed by a freezer again into water.

    This process requires a lot of energy. As people on earth become richer, they buy and use electrical driers more an more. We speak about billions usages daily, a geological scale.

    In some districts, even entire cities drying clothes or linen outdoors is forbidden. All we need to do is forbid to forbid the outdoor drying to home owners associations, municipal councils, etc.

    Outdoor driers may be re-designed to look better esthetically. It is not that difficult especially if they are used and bought more.

    Outdoor drying in hot sunny weather is the most efficient solar and wind device. Not possible to make anything more efficient. Besides it not only saves energy, it also actually cools the atmosphere.

    So the problem is quite solvable from an engineering point of view, but there is the most difficult obstacle, - the social one.

    • by Layzej (1976930)

      If every man woman and child (assuming a global populations of 7 billion) turned off 10 industrial strength 5600 watt dryers that they had been running 24 hours a day 365 days a year, then yes, this would be a good strategy for ending global warming. This would be the equivalent of the current energy imbalance. That is, this would prevent the warming not yet realized from the CO2 already emitted. It would not address the already realized warming, We would also have to stop emitting CO2 (or find more d

  • is just a code word for the Illuminati, who everyone knows are promoting the myth of global warming in an attempt to destroy our freedom to drive enorumous gasoline-powered vehicles, and to instill a New World Order led by Nazis, black homosexuals and, er , Jews. Or something.
  • Its the only way to be sure.
  • "Business cycles less volatile over time"? So, we're not in the middle of a Depression (self-proclaimed and degreed economists can visit the lake, head first)? Sorry, that's only true when there's serious social control over economies. The US massively deregulated... and they're back, in spades. Deregulation can directly be related to the S&L debacle of the late eighties, and again with the tech bubble, and again with the current collapse. There is not one single economic hypothesis (theories are repeat

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