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War and Peace ... and Climate Change
Volume 13, Number 13: 31 March 2010

In an insightful new study recently published in Climatic Change, Richard Tol and Sebastian Wagner write that in "gloomier scenarios of climate change, violent conflict plays a key part," noting that in such visions of the future "war would break out over declining water resources, and millions of refugees would cause mayhem."

In this regard, the two researchers state that "the Nobel Peace Prize of 2007 was partly awarded to the IPCC and Al Gore for their contribution to slowing climate change and thus preventing war." However, they say that "scenarios of climate-change-induced violence can be painted with abandon," citing the example of Schwartz and Randall (2003), because, as they continue, "there is "little research to either support or refute such claims."

Consequently, and partly to fill this gaping research void, Tol and Wagner proceeded to go where but few had gone before, following in the footsteps of Zhang et al. (2005, 2006), who broke new ground in this area when they (1) constructed a dataset of climate and violent conflict in China for the last millennium, and (2) found that the Chinese were "more inclined to fight each other when it was cold," which propensity for violence they attributed to the reduced agricultural productivity that typically prevailed during cooler times. Hence, the two researchers essentially proceeded to do for Europe what Zhang et al. had done for China.

The results of Tol and Wagner's analyses provide additional evidence that, as they describe it, "periods with lower temperatures in the pre-industrial era are accompanied by violent conflicts." However, they determined that "this effect is much weaker in the modern world than it was in pre-industrial times," which implies, in their words, "that future global warming is not likely to lead to (civil) war between (within) European countries." Therefore, they conclude that "should anyone ever seriously have believed that, this paper does put that idea to rest."

In light of this refutation of the rational for the awarding of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, we are inclined to say to its most visible recipient -- in the spirit of the sentiment expressed by President Ronald Reagan on 12 June 1987 at the base of the Brandenburg Gate, near the Berlin wall -- Mr. Gore, give back that prize!

Sherwood, Keith and Craig Idso

Schwartz, P. and Randall, D. 2003. An abrupt climate change scenario and its implications for United States national security. Global Business Network, San Francisco, USA.

Tol, R.S.J. and Wagner, S. 2010. Climate change and violent conflict in Europe over the last millennium. Climatic Change 99: 65-79.

Zhang, D., Jim, C., Lin, C., He, Y. and Lee, F. 2005. Climate change, social unrest and dynastic transition in ancient China. Chinese Science Bulletin 50: 137-144.

Zhang, D.D., Jim, C.Y., Lin, G.C.-S., He, Y.-Q., Wang, J.J. and Lee, H.F. 2006. Climatic change, wars and dynastic cycles in China over the last millennium. Climatic Change 76: 459-477.