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Climate strongly affects human conflict

The Earth's climate plays a more influential role in human affairs than previously thought – both now and in ancient times.

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Shifts in climate are strongly linked to human violence around the world, with even relatively minor departures from normal temperature or rainfall substantially increasing the risk of conflict in ancient times or today, according to a new study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and Princeton University.

The results, which cover all major regions of the world and show similar patterns whether looking at data from Brazil, China, Germany, Somalia or the United States, were published in the journal Science. By amassing more data than any prior study, the authors were able to show that the Earth's climate plays a more influential role in human affairs than previously thought.

The study data covers all major regions of the world and show similar patterns of conflict linked to climatic changes, such as increased drought or higher than average annual temperature. Examples include spikes in domestic violence in India and Australia; increased assaults and murders in the United States and Tanzania; ethnic violence in Europe and South Asia; land invasions in Brazil; police using force in Holland; civil conflicts throughout the tropics; and even the collapse of Mayan and Chinese empires.

The new study could have critical implications for understanding the impact of future climate change on human societies, as many global climate models...

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