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Blame It On El Nino: Researchers Link Conflict To Climate Change

08/25/2011 -

Ask any ER nurse and they’ll tell you things get crazy when the moon is full. Similarly, a police officer may tell you his beat is less busy on extremely hot days and during rainy spells. But for the most part these can be put off as urban legends.Study afterstudy have tried to find some kind of relationship between clear weather and crime or ER admissions and a full moon and come up with no conclusive evidence. Now researchers at Columbia University New York say they’ve found a link to climate cycles and civil conflict, with critics charging correlation doesn't prove causation.

A research team lead by Solomon Hsiang, a postdoctoral fellow in Applied Econometrics at Columbia, found that cyclical climatic changes double the risk of a civil war breaking out in nations affected by the El Nino weather pattern. Their research waspublished in the most recent issue of the science journal Nature.  

“The probability of new civil conflicts arising throughout the tropics doubles during El Nino years,” the study says noting that El Nino had a role in 21 percent of all civil conflicts since 1950. Two-hundred fifty conflicts between 1950 and 2004 happened during hotter, dryer weather.

“Altered environmental conditions stress the human psyche, sometimes leading to aggressive behavior,” the study states. Previous studies have shown when people get warm and uncomfortable, they are more prone to fight, Mark Cane, a member of the team was quoted by the Guardian.

Other factors include rise in unemployment, crop failure, and the change in a society’s general mood because of natural disasters.

Hsiang said less developed countries lack the resources to cope with the impacts of El Nino, making them more prone to poverty and conflict leading to wars. El Nino cycles occur every three to seven years.

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