28 Aug El Nino seems to increase the likelihood of Civil War
Recently published research in Nature this week makes for quite absorbing, if somewhat, worrying reading. The authors of the research have made a link between El Nino and conflict in poor tropical countries. Declines in crop yields associated with El Nino seem to increase the likelihood of civil war. The research focused on 175 countries and 234 civil wars in the last six decades. For example in ˜1957, civil war broke out in Burma and Oman. In 1965, similar conflicts erupted in Burundi, Chad, the Dominican Republic, Indonesia and Peru. In 1997, the Comoros, Congo, Eritrea, Niger and Rwanda also saw battles over national power.” (Nature Magazine)
The researchers analysed how many of these disputes occurred in years with an El Nino weather pattern and in so doing they found that the risks of civil war breaking out in a tropical country during an El Nino doubled. Mark Cane of Columbia University comments “When people get warmer than comfortable they get irritable and they are more prone to fight.” The research also found that in rich countries such as Australia the same pattern was not present. The researchers point out that if the findings are accurate, then the impact of global warming will add to the danger of more conflicts and civil wars occurring in the years ahead. Rather worryingly Cane comments “If these smaller, shorter-lasting and, by and large, less serious kinds of changes associated with El Nino have this effect, it is hard to imagine that the more pervasive changes that come with anthropogenic climate change are not also going to have negative effects on civil wars in other countries.”
Of course the research does not suggest that El Nino on its own causes conflict, it merely appears to exacerbate conditions that already exist. Nevertheless, the findings show that even in an advanced technological age such as the 21st century, societies and political systems are still being influenced by climate change just as they were many thousands of years ago.