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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Tufts: Climate Change and Collective Violence

Climate change not only has consequences for the environment, with more hot days and nights and greater precipitation, it also has impacts on human physical and mental health. As a component of this, scientists have for several years been assessing a causal relationship between climate change and a recorded increase in collective violence. They have found that while rising temperatures alone cannot fully explain the increased collective violence, it is beyond doubt that it is a factor, according to the article “Climate Change and Collective Violence,” published in the 2017 Annual Review of Public Health.

It is impossible to predict exactly how climate change will affect violence, but certain critical factors are identified. Rapid changes in the prices of commodities caused by droughts, for example, create food insecurity, and therefore violence. Researchers believe the civil war in Syria and the subsequent refugee crisis were probably triggered by the drought that resulted in the death of 80% of the cattle in the country between 2006 and 2009. Climate change acts differently in different regions of the world. For regions that are prone to violence for socioeconomical, political, or geographical reasons, it may act as a risk multiplier, the authors say. These areas include Africa and parts of Asia where the health-supporting infrastructure may be fragile.

Public health professionals have a role to play in mitigating the effects of climate change on collective violence, starting with putting pressure on governments to act against it. Another level of intervention is to ensure that infrastructure supports health and access to food. A third is to help recovery and develop collective resilience after climate-related disasters.

Read more in the article “Climate Change and Collective Violence” in the 2017 Annual Review of Public Health.

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