Debunked: the “climate change causes wars” myth

From the Center for Strategic and International Studies The Washington Quarterly, a total takedown of the myth that wars and climate change are linked as claimed by this ridiculous study from Columbia University we covered last week titled: That darned warm-mongering El Niño. Then there’s a book written about the issue as well shown at left.

The Climate Wars Myth, by Dr. Bruno Tertrais

The first decade of the 21st century was the hottest since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Global warming is real and, if present trends continue, its possible effects worry publics and governments around the world. Could it foster armed conflict for resources such as food and water? Will Western armies be increasingly called upon to mitigate the effects of natural catastrophes, humanitarian disasters, and floods of refugees?

Think tanks have enthusiastically embraced this new field of research, and militaries around the world are now actively studying the possible impact of a warming planet on global security. Books with titles such as Climate Wars predict a bleak future.1 A well-known French consultant claims that a five degree Celsius increase in average global temperature would generate no less than a ‘‘bloodbath.’’ Former World Bank economist Lord Nicholas Stern the author of the 2006 ‘‘Stern Report’’ on the possible economic impact of climate change even declares that failing to deal with climate change decisively would lead to ‘‘an extended world war.’’

However, there is every reason to be more than circumspect regarding such dire predictions. History shows that ‘‘warm’’ periods are more peaceful than ‘‘cold’’ ones.

In the modern era, the evolution of the climate is not an essential factor to explain collective violence. Nothing indicates that ‘‘water wars’’ or floods of ‘‘climate refugees’’ are on the horizon. And to claim that climate change may have an impact on security is to state the obvious but it does not make it meaningful for defense planning.

What History Teaches Us
Since the dawn of civilization, warmer eras have meant fewer wars. The reason is simple: all things being equal, a colder climate meant reduced crops, more famine and instability. Research by climate historians shows a clear correlation between increased warfare and cold periods. They are particularly clear in Asia and Europe, as well as in Africa.

Interestingly, the correlation has been diminishing since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution: as societies modernize, they become less dependent on local agricultural output.

Read the entire paper here

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56 thoughts on “Debunked: the “climate change causes wars” myth

  1. Lets see:

    “Damn its hot; Let’s just relax under this nice shady apple tree and munch on an apple at the same time.”

    Or

    “Damn its cold, and there’s no fruit on the trees; Lets go and raid Farmer Obama’s orchard. He’s still got fruit on his trees.”

    Yes, I can see how climate may cause wars.

  2. Umm…

    The really interesting lesson to take from this is not that “Climate Change causes Wars”.

    It is that:

    “Once a large industry is established, and lots of people are making a living out of it, it will use any justification that it can to persist”

    The military and security forces are a large industry. They had a good justification for existing in 1939-1945. They had a reasonable justification for existing in 1945-1970ish. By 1995 they had very little reason for existing, which was why the attack in 2001 was seized upon as a renewed justification.

    By now, they are scraping the bottom of the barrel.

    Note that Climate Change is now also a Big Industry ™……

  3. There is more of anger and greed than hunger and climate in the history of human conflict, but when ‘great’ men need a reason, one is really just as good as any other.

  4. Since the dawn of civilization, warmer eras have meant fewer wars.
    The exact opposite of what the Warmists tell us then.

    Interestingly, the correlation has been diminishing since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution: as societies modernize, they become less dependent on local agricultural output.
    What? Industrialisation is a good thing? Who knew! The exact opposite of what the Warmists tell us then.

  5. “climate change causes wars” may not be false.

    Global warming causes wars.

    Global cooling causes wars.

    One of those statements may be true.

  6. “The first decade of the 21st. Century was the hottest since the start of the Indusrtial Revolution.”
    Says who?

  7. I always find it funny when the proponents of CAGW use the attributes of a cold or cooling world to describe the effects of global warming.

  8. It’s because when it gets warmer, everyone starts growing grapes.

    BTW – Didn’t some of the warmists admit that crops would increase for the first 20-30 years of their epic man-caused warming disaster? And with that warming seemingly delayed for maybe 10-20 years, that would mean that 40-50 years from now, earth warming might (worst case) have brought us close to maximum food production.
    And if we are lucky, population will have leveled off by then, and science and technology will have advanced enough to 1) more fully understand earth climate and 2) have the wealth, technology and energy flexibility to deal possible warming issues – without impoverishing mankind.

  9. The real reason for this report being published in Nature last week was to give the eco-journalists an excuse not to mention the CERN/CLOUD result.

    I doubt even the warmists really believed it … they just needed it that week!

  10. Look what happened to Ireland…the potato famine. When I was a boy I used to marvel at all the ruins of cottages in the west and northwest of ireland…it was all so bleak and cold, how could so many people for several centuries have survived on an agrarian economy…
    The Great Migration of the Irish to the US in the 1830s 40s 50s was a direct result of ‘climate change’.
    There, I’ve thrown down the gauntlet!

  11. It is extremely embarrassing to admit that Gwynne Dyer is, in fact, a Canadian. Although, considering the make up of our political class quite understandable. Nowadays, Dyer spends his time amidst the privileged far left of the United Kingdom, a pool in which he is well suited to swim. The man spent years trying very hard to change history from what it was into what he wanted it to be, but never quite pulled it off in any convincing way. Pretty much just a bunch of overwrought hyperbole really — very long on supposition and very short of facts. It did not surprise me that Dyer would attempt to curry favour among like minded misanthropes, which his “book” makes amply plain. He can be fun to listen too though, as his Newfie brogue is easy on the ears — that is, as long as one does not actually listen to what he is saying.

  12. Watching Cspan’s Book TV I stumbled onto Christian Parenti, contributing editor of The Nation – shilling for the IPCC.
    “Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence

    “http://www.booktv.org/Program/12717/Tropic+of+Chaos+Climate+Change+and+the+New+Geography+of+Violence.aspx

  13. MWHITE@
    Global warming causes wars.
    Global cooling causes wars.
    ************************************
    People cause wars.
    Whether or not the war is fought to gain food/power it is people that are at fault.
    They may seek to apportion the blame to many things, warming/cooling/wet/dry climate, it is but an excuse.

  14. CO2 production prevents wars. Currently CO2 produces 10 to 15% more food in the 390ppm anthropogenic world we live in, then in the pre industrial 280ppm world. Without this additional CO2 we would need far more land and water devoted to food then we have developed. There would be massive starvation and likely wars. Unlike the ever failing claims of CO2 disaster, this benefit is a current fact.

  15. But wait, wars are good things, there was a report that nuclear war would cool the planet, and Paul Krugman declared that a space alien attack would help the economy.
    Talking about this silly theory if wars or space alien attacks help the economy then Irene should have helped it too. Expect to see Obama give credit to Irene of the improved economy.

  16. JohnMJohnM says:
    August 29, 2011 at 6:17 am

    “Egyptian families are having to get up at dawn each day to queue up for bread rations, as the country struggles to cope with grain shortages that threaten a major political crisis.”

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/2787714/Egyptians-riot-over-bread-crisis.html

    “How the rising price of corn made Mexicans take to streets”

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/how-the-rising-price-of-corn-made-mexicans-take-to-streets-454260.html

    Although possibly caused by biofuel policies food shortages due to poor harvests would probably have a similar effect. People make their feelings known to their governments (They could always stay at home and starve)

  17. lying about tonkin cause wars
    imaginary WMDs cause wars
    protecting pipelines cause wars
    dictators using oil revenue to raise the standard of living for the people cause wars

  18. Funny, isn’t this the same argument that guns kill people as opposed to people kill people? If warming increases food production one would think violence would decrease yet, in those areas of the earth where one can literally pick food from the trees year round experience the most horrific violence. Why is that?
    If it gets colder worldwide, I can certainly see increased competition for food resulting in violence but, how can the earth getting warmer have any effect at all?
    Isn’t it just common sense that, should there be upheavals in weather patterns, perhaps caused by warming, that people would move or adapt? Wars were not fought over the Sahara getting any bigger. Should we allow for the Sahara perhaps getting smaller?

  19. The original paper was published in Nature, a peer reviewed journal. Dr Tertrais is publishing in a newsletter of a conservative think tank, which is not peer reviewed . That isn’t debunking, that’s just his commentary.

    REPLY:
    Oh here we go, the defense that peer review is the end all for quality research. Well my dear fake Hengist, have a look at this peer reviewed paper, in a mature journal, and argue all you want about peer review being the gatekeeper of quality. Oh and then there’s the history cited, which you conveniently ignore. – Anthony

  20. Interestingly this report reaches a different conclusion than the U.S. Department of Defense. To quote Quadrennial defense review report, February 2010: “While climate change alone does not cause conflict, it may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict, placing a burden to respond on civilian institutions and militaries around the world.”

    Tertrais makes the assumption that global warming in the future will give more or less the same effect on our society as the global warming that has happened in the recent past.
    Do you agree on this point?

  21. charles nelson says: August 29, 2011 at 5:05 am
    [The Great Migration of the Irish to the US in the 1830s 40s 50s was a direct result of ‘climate change’.]

    Actually I think it was caused by an American Seed Potato vendor from somewhere in the mid-west, Chicago perhaps.

  22. Let’s just say that “People Cause Wars” and admit that any excuse is as good as any other when they’re in the mood. Oh yes, I nearly forgot to tell you this – They lie! They will lie about any thing and every thing, don’t trust a one of them to ever tell you the absolute, honest truth. I know, it’s terrible hard to believe, but it’s true. I swear it on me dear great-great-great grandmother’s grave, tis true. They will lie at the drop of a hat. But they are generally nice and friendly. Usually. That’s true too.

  23. Curiousgeorge says:
    August 29, 2011 at 5:15 am

    No. Politicians cause wars.
    =================
    /signed

  24. My dear fake Anthony. I have not made the argument you attribute to me. Im simply pointing out that one source Nature is more reputable than The Washington Quarterly. When Dr Tertrais has his work published in a journal of that ilk then the Columbia paper will have been debunked. And not before.

    REPLY:
    You can’t bring yourself to read it, can you? How sad for you. – Anthony

  25. charles nelson said:
    August 29, 2011 at 5:05 am
    > Look what happened to Ireland…the potato famine.
    > …
    > The Great Migration of the Irish to the US in the 1830s 40s 50s
    > was a direct result of ‘climate change’.

    The Great Hunger was caused by Potato Blight, a fungus-like organism that likes cool, moist conditions. They wouldn’t like global warming.

  26. So was this paper timed with the expected though pre-mature belief that a strong El Nino was about to occur.

    Might we create a hypothesis that the qualtity of pro-AGW “peer reviewed” (SARC) papers increases in proportion to the positioning of the hands on the ENSO Meter? Perhaps that would have a better correlation than the wars-Temperature correlation.

  27. Funny, I spent quite a bit of time studying history. The only climatic changes that have led to conflicts have been severe cold spells. Other than that, it is socialists that usually cause wars. Just As it is socialist manipulation of the market that is causing famine. Warm periods have almost always been associated with prosperity. Prosperous people are hard to control. That is why the socialist want us cold and hungry.

  28. It is a real stretch to assert that there is no relationship between climate change and war, based on history. Present circumstances are unprecedented; there have never been populations of 7 billion people before, nor have there been the levels of technology evident now. Past populations were not burdened with high levels of CO2, and the pace of change in the past was slow enough to allow most plants and animals to adapt. CIrcumstances are now radically different, leading the Pentagon and many others to warn of possible conflicts ahead. What purpose is served by denying this possibility?

  29. agweird says (August 29, 2011 at 8:24 am): “Tertrais makes the assumption that global warming in the future will give more or less the same effect on our society as the global warming that has happened in the recent past.
    Do you agree on this point?”

    Depends. “Global warming” is currently in a time out, so it’s not at all clear that it will continue.

    I hope it does, though, because the “global warming” since the Little Ice Age has been, on the whole, beneficial to humanity. I expect further benefits from additional warming, if any.

  30. charles nelson says:
    Look what happened to Ireland…the potato famine. [snip]
    The Great Migration of the Irish to the US in the 1830s 40s 50s was a direct result of ‘climate change’.

    “The Famine began quite mysteriously in September 1845 as leaves on potato plants suddenly turned black and curled, then rotted, seemingly the result of a fog that had wafted across the fields of Ireland. The cause was actually an airborne fungus (phytophthora infestans) originally transported in the holds of ships traveling from North America to England.

    http://www.historyplace.com/worldhistory/famine/begins.htm

    “The Little Ice Age is a period between about 1300 and 1870 during which Europe and North America were subjected to much colder winters than during the 20th century.”

    http://www.eh-resources.org/timeline/timeline_lia.html

  31. Hugh Pepper says:
    Present circumstances are unprecedented;
    Past populations were not burdened with high levels of CO2,

    The only burden from high CO2 is the alarmist tax quest, which is unprecedented and accelerating!

    What purpose is served by screeching the sky is falling?

  32. So, with the exception of oldseadog, everyone accepts the article’s statement that, “The first decade of the 21st century was the hottest since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Global warming is real…”

  33. Hugh Pepper says:
    August 29, 2011 at 11:46 am
    It is a real stretch to assert that there is no relationship between climate change and war, based on history. Present circumstances are unprecedented; there have never been populations of 7 billion people before, nor have there been the levels of technology evident now. Past populations were not burdened with high levels of CO2, and the pace of change in the past was slow enough to allow most plants and animals to adapt. CIrcumstances are now radically different, leading the Pentagon and many others to warn of possible conflicts ahead. What purpose is served by denying this possibility?

    _ Since the geological history of earth shows CO2 follows warming by hundreds of years on average, why are we presently burdened with CO2?
    _ Since there is no evidence that current warming has exceeded recent past warm periods, what is the burden from high levels of C02?
    _ Since the post says history shows warm periods have less conflicts while cold spells have more wars, you can say the this post “assert[s] that there is no relationship between climate change and war?”

  34. One Tin Soldier . . . .

    “”Came an answer from the kingdom,
    “With our brothers we will share
    All the secrets of our mountain,
    All the riches buried there.”

    Now the valley cried with anger,
    “Mount your horses! Draw your sword!”
    And they killed the mountain-people,
    So they won their just reward. “”

    One Tin Soldier by Dennis Lambert & Brian Potter, performed by The Original Caste (1970)

    http://www.scoutsongs.com/lyrics/onetinsoldier.html

  35. Gary Hladik says:
    “Depends. “Global warming” is currently in a time out, so it’s not at all clear that it will continue.

    I hope it does, though, because the “global warming” since the Little Ice Age has been, on the whole, beneficial to humanity. I expect further benefits from additional warming, if any.”

    Well, but the whole basis for the paper is that global warming will continue, the discussion is about whether or not this will lead to “wars” or not.
    The point I was getting at is that today we have seen massive destructions of ecosystems, which have never been seen before in recent human history.
    In the science of ecology, which studies the systems the human society is dependent upon, you find the interesting phenomenon of synergistic effects. This means that the whole response of several ecological disturbances (pollution, over harvesting, habitat destruction, and even climate change) is greater than the sum of the individual disturbances. They affect and magnify each other, you could say.

    For example, an animal population that is already heavily affected by over harvesting, which often lead to lower reproduction or survival (e.g. safety in numbers principle), will have a much harder time to adapt to for example changes in the local environment than an animal population that is not “polluted.” Thus the effect from the change in the local environment will be magnified from the pollution disturbance.

    As I said, Tertrais makes the assumption that global warming in the future will give more or less the same effect on our society as the global warming that has happened in the recent past.
    Considering synergistic effects, I do not believe this assumption is valid. I believe the effect from global warming will be greater in the future than global warming of the same degree in the past.

  36. John B says:
    August 29, 2011 at 12:41 pm
    So, with the exception of oldseadog, everyone accepts the article’s statement that, “The first decade of the 21st century was the hottest since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Global warming is real…”

    The linked article does no original research regarding this. Yet I’m sure it will be cataloged as one of thousands of studies supporting the AGW consensus. No source was cited for the above statement, either.

    I have always found statements such as “global warming is real” to be as meaningful as “climate change is happening.” In other words, vapid and meaningless.

  37. Well, looking to where most of the current ware are happening, one might get the idea that heat makes people more agressive.
    But I don’t think it has anything to do with climate change, unless it is the change of the mental climate.

    rg

  38. agweird says (August 29, 2011 at 1:10 pm): “As I said, Tertrais makes the assumption that global warming in the future will give more or less the same effect on our society as the global warming that has happened in the recent past.

    Considering synergistic effects, I do not believe this assumption is valid. I believe the effect from global warming will be greater in the future than global warming of the same degree in the past.”

    And as I mentioned, past global warming has been beneficial overall. So we can expect future warming, if any, to be even more beneficial than predicted from past experience? This is indeed good news! What can I do to make sure this warming actually happens, so my children and grandchildren can enjoy its bounties?

  39. Gary Hladik says:
    “And as I mentioned, past global warming has been beneficial overall. So we can expect future warming, if any, to be even more beneficial than predicted from past experience? This is indeed good news! What can I do to make sure this warming actually happens, so my children and grandchildren can enjoy its bounties?”

    My point was that even if a change in a factor gave positive effects in the past, one cannot simply assume that the same change in the factor gives the same effect, and not even positive at all, in the future.
    Let me explain with a hypothetical analogy: Let’s say that we hunt a large animal population, and kill 100 animals per month, a relatively small amount. When we do this, we see a positive effect from the hunting, because the individuals that are left have more food, and thus have less mortality and increased reproduction, so the harvesting is sustainable over time.
    But if the population size is decreased to 10% of the original amount (a commonly observed scenario in the last century), a catch of 100 animals per month could be devastating for the population, either because there would not be enough individuals left to replace the loss, or because a small population risk demographic instability because of social interactions may be interrupted when the population density falls below a certain level, which may lead to higher mortality or lower reproduction.

    If we were to follow Tertrais’ logic when managing this population (hunting was no problem before, so it shouldn’t be a problem now), the population would risk extinction.

  40. oldseadog says:
    August 29, 2011 at 4:29 am

    “The first decade of the 21st. Century was the hottest since the start of the Indusrtial Revolution.”
    Says who?

    It’s probably true, but it’s like saying that (in the northern hemisphere) July is warmer than December.

  41. John B says:
    August 29, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    So, with the exception of oldseadog, everyone accepts the article’s statement that, “The first decade of the 21st century was the hottest since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Global warming is real…”

    Trying to pigeonhole everyone again? Do you agree with everything every AGW supporter says?

    As I just posted above, such a statement is like saying that summer is warmer than winter. The LIA was a known colder period for a good portion of the planet, now it’s not so cold. No argument from me, but, it’s not global. Wasn’t global then, isn’t global now. Global Average Temperature is meaningless.

  42. agweird says (August 30, 2011 at 3:40 am): “My point was that even if a change in a factor gave positive effects in the past, one cannot simply assume that the same change in the factor gives the same effect, and not even positive at all, in the future.”

    Nor can one assume it won’t. In fact, all indications are that a resumption of warming would be beneficial, e.g. longer growing season, fewer cold-related deaths, milder winters, etc.

    BTW, the hunting analogy is flawed, as “global warming” isn’t something we can “use up”; it’s either there or not.

  43. Gary Hladik says:
    “Nor can one assume it won’t. In fact, all indications are that a resumption of warming would be beneficial, e.g. longer growing season, fewer cold-related deaths, milder winters, etc.

    BTW, the hunting analogy is flawed, as “global warming” isn’t something we can “use up”; it’s either there or not.”

    Yes. But this also includes beneficial for unwanted organisms, which we have observed might be very problematic for us (invasive species etc.).

    About the analogy: I am sorry if I made myself unclear. It was the hunting that was an analogy to the global warming, not the animal population.
    The point was that an identical disturbance may be beneficial for a population in one situation, but may be disastrous in a different situation.
    This is true for ecosystems, and since I believe our society is largely dependent on ecosystem services, and that a lack of these will cause conflicts, I believe it is true for the human society too.
    Thus, Tertrais’ argument is flawed, in my opinion.

  44. Hugh P;
    You really can’t see the irrationality of saying, in the same breath, that present circumstances are unprecedented and that thus we should take lessons from history (as misrepresented and fudged in the Nature report)?

    Heh-hee-hah-ho-har-de-har!

  45. Who needs wars when you have bureaucrats?
    They are much more efficient at killing.
    And oddly, the same ones pushing CAGW. You would think they would have a belly full of it…you’d be wrong!

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