Does the Climate Have an Influence on Violent Behavior?

January 19, 2019
Climate changes are closely linked to human violence. Even relatively small temperature changes or rainfall can substantially increase the risk of conflict.

Various Spanish scientists carried out a study that the Science of The Total Environment published on December 10, 2018. Said study connects heat waves with aggressiveness. According to this study, the climate has an influence on violent behavior. 

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and Princeton University conducted studies on the matter. They concluded that climate changes are closely linked to many of the violent situations that happen around the world.

Relatively small temperature changes or rainfall substantially increase violence and the risk of conflict. Consequently, the researchers demonstrated just how much the Earth’s climate influences our behavior.

This study also discussed:

  • The fact that there is more domestic violence in India and Australia.
  • The fact that aggression, murders, and overall violent behavior have increased in the USA and Tanzania.
  • Civil conflicts in the tropics.
  • The ethnic violence that takes place in Europe and South Asia.
  • Land invasions in Brazil.
  • The use of police forces in the Netherlands.
Man showing violent behavior towards a woman.

Climate change: A trigger for violent behavior

These new studies could have important implications when it comes to estimating how current climate change can affect us. Many global climate models estimate that the temperature will rise at least 35.6ºF over the next half-century.

The scientists discovered three types of conflict related to climate change. In addition, they saw that conflict responds more consistently to temperature because 27 studies indicated a correlation between high temperatures and an increase in violence.

These researchers collected information from 60 existing studies containing 45 different data sets to draw joint conclusions in a common statistical framework. “The results were surprising”, said Solomon Hsiang, lead author of the study and professor at the Goldman School of Public Policy from the University of California, Berkeley.

A man clenching his fists.

Can heat waves lead to misogynist violence?

Several Spanish scientists carried out a study and concluded that there is, in fact, a relationship between these two variables. Belén Sanz-Barbero, Cristina Linares, Carmen Vives-Cases, José Luis González, Juan José López-Ossorio, and Julio Díaz are the co-authors of “Heat wave and the risk of intimate partner violence”, which was published on December 10, 2018 in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

The scientists stated in this study that the risk of intimate partner violence increases three days after s heat wave. That being said, based on a large number of women who have reported or claimed to have been victims of violence at the hands of their partner, the researchers stressed that it’s “extremely important” to identify the factors that can influence violent behavior in these cases.

Based on the data, the researchers argue that the risk of misogynist violence increases about three days after a heat wave, while police reports of sexist violence increase only one day after.

Likewise, helpline calls from women who experienced gender violence increased five days after a heat wave. In particular, the risk of a woman being killed by her partner increases by more than 28% after a heat wave.

The researchers stated in the study’s conclusion: “Our results suggest that heat waves are associated with an increase in IPV (intimate partner violence). The effect of an increase in IPV is delayed in time, with differences according to the violence indicators analyzed”.

Hsiang, S. M., Burke, M., & Miguel, E. (2013). Quantifying the influence of climate on human conflict. Science. http://doi.org/10.1126/science.1235367

Sanz-Barbero, B., Linares, C., Vives-Cases, C., González, J. L., López-Ossorio, J. J., & Díaz, J. (2018). Heat wave and the risk of intimate partner violence. Science of the Total Environment. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.06.368