More wars through climate change?

Coherence between resource scarcity, climate and armed conflicts has been demonstrated

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In the future, climatic changes and the concomitant scarcity of natural resources could trigger not only refugee flows but, increasingly, armed conflicts as well. This is shown in a study that analyzed the relationship between temperature fluctuations and crop failures on the one hand, and the frequency of armed conflicts on the other hand in eastern China.

David Zhang of the University of Hong Kong and his fellow authors evaluated records of 899 Eastern China wars between 1000 and 1911, which are documented in the "Tabulation of Wars in Ancient China" for their study, now published in the journal "Human Ecology." They compared these records with northern hemisphere temperature data for the same period. The majority of the Chinese population depends on the agricultural production of this region.

Cold promotes wars

The scientists found that the frequency of wars in eastern China, especially in the southern part of the region, was indeed clearly linked to temperature fluctuations. Almost all wars and dynastic changes coincided with cold spells. Temperature fluctuations often have a direct impact on agriculture and horticulture, and in a society with limited technological capabilities, such as pre-industrial China, falling temperatures are also closely linked to the availability of agricultural products and livestock.

According to Zhang and his team, in times of ecological crises, wars were often the last resort for redistributing resources. The authors conclude that "it was the fluctuations in agricultural production triggered by long-term climatic changes that determined China's historical cycle of war and peace." They recommend that scientists include climate change in their search for causes of war in our history.

With these results in mind, Zhang and colleagues predict that a shortage of essential resources, such as fresh water, agricultural land, energy sources and minerals, can provoke even more armed conflict in our societies. display

(Springer science and business media, 11.07.2007 - NPO)