Climate Change Linked to Human Conflicts, Study Finds

13 Mar 2023

Experts have linked the root cause of climate change to world powers and their abuse of natural resources, at the expense of less developed countries.


As climate change looms over an ever-changing globe and becomes a dire case in political circles, an innovative paradigm for investigating the connection between social conflict and climate change has been placed forth in a recent research co-authored by a University of Iowa professor.


The study’s results, co-written by Ujjal Kumar Mukherjee, Snigdhansu Chatterjee and Benjamin E. Bagozzi, suggest “nuanced relationships between temperature deviations and social conflicts.”


“We were talking about the effects of climate change, rising temperatures and the change in the pattern of precipitation, extreme climate events, for example, flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes or drought situations,” Mukherjee said.


“How does it affect human life and society, especially when you have a globalised environment where the supply chain is spread all across the globe?”


Mukherjee claimed that after coming up with the initial hypothesis, he and his colleagues started looking into how climate change might lead to armed conflict, particularly in regions of the world where people are still reliant on agriculture production and the extraction of raw materials like coal and minerals.


“Whenever you have resource constraints, crime, as well as human conflict, increases,” Mukherjee said. “We try to quantify it at a global scale.”


While there have been studies on a smaller size, according to Mukherjee, this study is on a much greater scale.


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In interpreting the findings, however, Chatterjee said to be cautious. “It says that given the data, this is what we are seeing in the data now,” Chatterjee said, adding that matters change, including political structures and the climate, which is undoubtedly changing.


It is very possible that there will be more violence and conflicts as a result of climate-related issues because “these are human beings, and these things keep morphing.”


“Or, individuals may discover how to adjust and coexist peacefully.”


Forced migration, according to Chatterjee, is also a subject of this conversation.


Certain communities and villages become intolerable due to the weather, a shortage of water, or another factor. “They will be forced to migrate, and given how things are all over the world, where would they migrate to?” Chatterjee questioned.


The three experts believe that this will increasingly be the main source of conflict in the future.


The data analysis can get complicated, Mukherjee said, because of all the factors that affect both conflicts involving civil, social, and other conflicts and climate change.


Looking at a single association between conflict and temperature does not make it easy to draw conclusions. Future scholars and political actors, according to Chatterjee, can exploit this data.


“We propose this model, and this can be used by future researchers in this area,” Chatterjee said. “So in the long run, nations and governments and policymakers need to be aware of it and need to adopt policies that are more climate conducive.”


“We would like to involve more climate variables that involve more of a causal structure and then have more precise estimates,” Chatterjee said. “So less uncertainty and a more narrow band of answers, especially as we project things into the future, that will be useful both for us, as well as for policymakers.”


Globally, people and society will likely experience a wide range of negative effects from climate change, especially during transitional periods. Particularly likely are the effects of climate change to exacerbate the burden of poverty and human insecurity on already weak communities and weak governments.


However, the argument can easily be diluted by actors who want to avoid taking direct responsibility for the crimes and violence they conduct, thus taking advantage of the discourse on climate-conflict by blaming it on greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, reports said.


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Separately, many experts have linked the root cause of climate change to world powers and their abuse of natural resources, at the expense of less developed countries.


While climate pledges are typically centred around minimising greenhouse gas emissions, the focus is rapidly shifting towards methane footprint due to its nature of trapping more heat in the short term than its carbon dioxide counterpart.


Methane is more than 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide at locking heat in the atmosphere. Over the last two centuries, methane concentrations in the atmosphere have more than doubled, mainly due to human-related activities.


Unlike carbon dioxide, methane’s leakage into the atmosphere is not the result of combustion or fossil fuel-burning, as it actually represents the loss of a marketable fuel.


Methane is responsible for approximately a quarter of all the climate change already being experienced globally.


The International Energy Agency’s methane tracking found that oil and gas operations worldwide produced more than 70 million tons of methane into the atmosphere last year, describing it as “broadly equivalent to the total energy-related carbon dioxide emissions from the entire European Union.”


World powers and climate change


Extreme weather events have been cited as proof of climate change across the world.


After a summer of record-breaking temperatures and enormous bush fires, Europe is currently experiencing its worst drought in 500 years. China and parts of the United States are also experiencing drought.


According to the Global Climate Risk Index, which analyses the human and economic toll of big extreme weather events, Pakistan has continuously rated among the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.


This is despite the South Asian country being responsible for less than 1% of global carbon emissions.



Millions of people were affected by the disastrous floods and landslides that Pakistan’s 2022 monsoon season brought upon.


All four provinces of the nation were impacted, along with about 15% of the total population. A few months after the worst of the floods, in early 2023, an estimated 4.5 million people still reside in or are exposed to flooded areas.


The horrific floods in Pakistan have prompted many to speak out on the issues of climate change and the major role countries play in exacerbating the dooming process.


“Climate change is a global justice issue. Rich countries like our own pump out massive levels of carbon emissions, while poor countries like Pakistan have to pay for it. With their crops, their homes, their lives,” Mehdi Hassan said on Twitter for MSNBC at the time.


Pakistan is one of the 10 countries majorly affected by the global climate crisis, although though the struggling South Asian country is “barely even responsible for this very global problem,” said Hassan.


Since 1959, Pakistan has been contributing 0.4% to the world’s historic greenhouse gas emissions. On a global level, the US accounts for 21.5% while China is responsible for 16.5% and EU countries make up 15%.