Crimes of the Hot: A changing climate could lead to more violent crime
Posted March 18, 2014 in Solving Global Warming
Ever have to wait in line during a scorching and muggy summer day? Makes you pretty grumpy doesn’t it? And that is not particularly surprising; extreme temperatures often alter our moods and behaviors.
What is surprising is just how subtle a deviation in temperature or weather patterns is needed to have an impact on our behavior. This is bad news, since humans are in the process of wreaking all kinds of havoc with our planet’s temperature and climate.
A recent study by the University of California, Berkeley and Princeton University revealed “shifts in climate are strongly linked to human violence.” Even relatively minor changes in regional temperature resulted in a 4 percent increase in the likelihood of personal violence and crime such as murder, assault, rape, and domestic violence; and a 14 percent increase in the likelihood of intergroup violence such as riots, ethnic violence, and civil wars.
Checkout this this PBS Newshour segment for a more in-depth look at the study’s findings:
Another study by Abt Associates, a research and consulting firm in Cambridge, Mass., estimated that the social costs associated with the increase in violence that may accompany climate change could run as high as $115 billion. The Abt study determined that crime rates by 2090 could be 1.5 percent to 5.5 percent higher because of climate change.
Scientists are still not sure why violence rises with temperature, but the Berkeley scientists noted that 27 out of 27 studies of modern societies they reviewed had found a positive relationship between high temperatures and greater violence.
Despite the uncertainty as to why temperature causes this to happen, it’s not hard to guess why increased drought or higher rain fall (flooding) can lead to violence. They can cause food and water scarcity, loss of housing, economic depreciation, population displacement, and a myriad of other impacts that could promote crime.
These projected increased rates in violence are based on a 2 degree Celsius global temperature increase, which we will likely hit around mid-century; but what happens if we don’t get our temperature under control and start to move past 4 degrees, or 6 degrees? What will the possible increases in violence be then?
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