Guest essay by Albert Parker
There have been many recent claims that “climate change” was the reason for conflicts, with also the war in Syria explained by the anthropogenic carbon dioxide emission. However, this is not settled science, as this claim is wrong.
There have been, and there are, conflicts for other very well-known reasons. The causes of wars are many and varied, and much more complicated. From past to recent wars, the global warming explanation simply does not compute.
The world has experienced many wars. World War II, the Mongol conquests, the Qing conquest of the Ming, the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, the Taiping Rebellion, the An Lushan Rebellion, the Germanic Wars, World War I, the Conquests of Timur, the Dungan Revolt, the Chinese Civil War, the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire, the Reconquista, the Russian Civil War, the Thirty Years’ War, the Ottoman wars in Europe, the Napoleonic Wars, the war in Afghanistan, the Vietnam war and the Iraqi war, just to name a few. All these wars did not start because of “global warming” but for other reasons, as they did not end because of “global cooling”.
Recently, Adams, Ide, Barnett & Detges (2018), without calling “non-scientific” claims that are everything but scientific, simply uncovered several methodological problems with research related to assessing the propensity for war amid environmental changes due to “climate change”. The paper claimed that much of current research on the topic suffers from a multitude of flaws and bias. This paper then received an Editorial in Nature (Nature Editorial, 2018) of title “Don’t jump to conclusions about climate change and civil conflict” supporting some sort of “return-to-reason” also in works dealing with “climate change”. In the latest Nature of March 2018, however, three (3) correspondence letters have now been published, none of them addressing the real issue that wars have not been caused so far by “global warming”, but only harshly questioning the methodological problems raised by Adams, Ide, Barnett & Detges (2018), and, more than that, the “return-to-reason” promoted by the Editorial in Nature (Nature Editorial, 2018).
Gleick, Lewandowsky & Kelley (2018) label “a flawed oversimplification” the criticisms made in a review of the scientific and methodological challenges evaluating the links between climate change and human conflict by Adams, Ide, Barnett & Detges (2018).
For Butler & Kefford (2018), while “climate change” is not the “sole cause” of war, violence, unrest or migration, it is certainly a risk multiplier, influencer or co-factor. Environmental and ecological factors interact with social determinants, including those that are economic, demographic and political, to produce phenomena such as migration, conflict and famine. Hence, “climate change” is guilty.
Hsiang & Burke (2018), question the Editorial in Nature (Nature Editorial, 2018), that, according to them, “is based on an analysis that in our view provides no evidence for biased results”. They disagree with the Editorial recommendation that it is “undesirable” to study risk factors for populations with a high likelihood of conflict because it could “stigmatize” these regions as politically unstable, as such recommendations “could create bias in the literature by inhibiting research”.
The debate is therefore deviating from the proper track.
There has been so far, no real indication that warming temperatures are the reason for wars. These are only speculations based on very biased views of history, politics and the climate.
If we look at objective analyses, for example Roser (2018), with a purely empirical view, while the past was everything but peaceful, the second half of the 20th century was extraordinarily peaceful especially in Europe. The absolute number of war deaths has been declining since the end of World War II, when, according to the theory of “climate change”, “global warming” kicks-in. The world has recently seen an exponential population growth (Roser & Ortiz-Ospina, 2018). While about two hundred years ago there were less than one billion peoples on earth, there are today (2011) almost 7.5 billion. For thousands of years, the population grew only slowly but between 1900 and 2000, the population increment was three times greater than during the entire previous history of humanity, from 1.5 to 6.1 billion in 100 years. The relative numbers of war deaths, accounting for the growth of world population, have been declining even faster.
Quoting Oppenheimer (1951), “We do not believe any group of men adequate enough or wise enough to operate without scrutiny or without criticism. We know that the only way to avoid error is to detect it, that the only way to detect it is to be free to enquire. We know that the wages of secrecy are corruption. We know that in secrecy error, undetected, will flourish and subvert.”
Hence, the claim that “climate change” is causing wars is everything but settled science, it is a wrong claim, that should be openly questioned, and rapidly dismissed. There are much more evident factors affecting wars that should be researched and discussed that not “climate change”. The problem are those able to void any scientific criticism of their claim for a reason or another.
Figure 1 (from Parker, 2016) is just one example of the wrongly phased anthropogenic global warming for the start and the end of World War II. Despite the progress of the “adjustocene” affecting the temperatures also in Berlin, a wrong temperature based approach could suggest World War II started because there was an extreme cold weather in Berlin, and it ended because of the anthropogenic global warming in Berlin.
Fig. 1 – Wrongly phased anthropogenic global warming for the start and the end of World War II. World War II did not start because of an early outbreak of anthropogenic global warming and did not end with more renewable energy and more carbon taxes mitigating this warming. Temperatures in Berlin were at a record low at the start of World War II September 1, 1939, and more than 3 degrees Celsius higher when Soviet soldiers raised their flag on top of the Reichstag building on May 2, 1945. Top temperature profiles from NASA GISS (GHCN V2 on left, GHCN V3 on the right) in Berlin – Temple. Middle images from Wikipedia of the start and end of the war. Bottom temperature profiles from NASA GISS (GHCN V2 on left, GHCN V3 on the right) in Berlin – Dahlem.
Adams, C., Ide, T., Barnett, J. & Detges, A. (2018), Sampling bias in climate–conflict research, Nature Climate Change, 8:200–203. doi:10.1038/s41558-018-0068-2
Butler, C. D. & Kefford, B. J. (2018), Climate change as a contributor to human conflict, Nature 555, 587.doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-03795-0
Gleick, P.H., Lewandowsky, S. & Kelley, P. (2018), Critique of conflict and climate analysis is oversimplified, Nature 555, 587. doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-03794-1
Hsiang, S. & Burke, M. (2018), Conclusion of conflict and climate analysis questioned, Nature 555, 587. doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-03798-x
Nature Editorial (2018), Don’t jump to conclusions about climate change and civil conflict, Nature 554, 275-276. doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-01875-9.
Oppenheimer, J.R. (1951), Encouragement of Science (Address at Science Talent Institute, 6 Mar 1950), Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 7(1):6-8.
Roser, M. (2018). War and Peace. Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from: ‘ourworldindata.org/war-and-peace’ [Online Resource]
Roser, M. & Ortiz-Ospina, E. (2018). World Population Growth. Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from: ‘ourworldindata.org/world-population-growth’ [Online Resource]
Parker, A., (2016), IS THERE ANY PROOF EXTREME EVENTS AND ARMED-CONFLICT RISKS ARE EXACERBATED BY ANTHROPOGENIC GLOBAL WARMING?, New Concepts in Global Tectonics Journal, 4(3):492-496.