CONTRIBUTING TO ARMED CONFLICT Climate change is not the most significant driver of armed conflict, but in many cases, it has contributed to it. Again, this is a complex issue and factors beyond climate change contribute to the emergence of armed conflict. Experts agree that the influence of climate change on the emergence and/or intensity of armed conflict will grow as the average temperature of the planet increases. Climate change and/or climate change related disasters can increase the probability of armed conflict between or within nations by precipitating crop failures and food and water shortages, amplifying intergroup inequality and ethnically fractured populations, increasing the numbers of climate refugees who are displaced from their homes, all of which make more apparent the weakness of the state, and decreasing economic development. Below, I briefly look at one particular case, Syria.
Researchers conclude that the three-year drought in Syria (2007-2010) was likely precipitated by climate change and led, in part, to the civil war. One of the researchers quoted in an interview on Carbonbrief.org states, “We’re not saying drought caused the war. We’re saying that added to all the other stressors, it helped kick things over the threshold into open conflict. And a drought of that severity was made much more likely by the ongoing human-driven drying of that region.” Other scholars debate this conclusion as too simplistic (see more here). Clearly, no civil war or other armed conflict is solely caused by climate change. The effects of climate change occur not in a vacuum but in varied social contexts that generate different results from the consequences of climate change. See a clip from Years of Living Dangerously (a climate change series on Showtime) that explores the issue.
VECTOR BORNE DISEASE Changes in heat and precipitation patterns influence the spread of vector borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. Warmer and wetter climates foster the spread of mosquitoes (one of the primary carriers of vector borne diseases). But drier climates decrease the mosquito population. Research remains mixed on the overall effects of climate change on the spread of such diseases. As with other effects of climate change, it doesn’t occur in a vacuum free from other variables. Urbanization, housing styles, population density, and preventative actions also influence how vector borne diseases impact any population. While the diseases may move into new areas as the areas become wetter and/or warmer, vector borne diseases are predicted to decline in areas that become drier. Current research remains inconclusive regarding a global increase or decrease of vector borne diseases, but scientists agree that regions of infection are likely to shift. Impacts will vary by disease and the specific of particular regions. Read more here.