Categorized | Environment

Civil War Causes – Poverty, Politics and ENSO Swings

Civil War Causes – Poverty, Politics and ENSO Swings

El NinoA breakthrough by a recent study has shown that the probability of civil war starting in nations due to adverse effects of weather like El Nino is 200%. This has been proved by the fact that hostility between government of Peru troops and rebel groups like Shining Path flared up into bloody battles, due to the El-Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which ravaged potato fields in Peru in 1982. Till date scientists had no clue about the connection of war and climate.

An economist from University of California, Berkeley Edward Miguel stated that there was a strong connection between difficult or extreme weather conditions and political clashes in poverty-ridden nations as more proof pointed towards it. He also added that it was a critical piece of information from the study.

A lot of criticism and opposition was invited over a paper presented by Miguel and his team in 2009, at the National Academy of Sciences, linking civil wars in Africa to climatic temperature shooting up. The major criticism came from scientist, Solomon Hsiang of Columbia University, who countered the papers statistical methods and claims. He said there was no relation between Conflict and Global climate and it was highly impossible for scientists to measure changes in temperature and relate it to conflicts across the globe.

The El Nino and La Nina events cause the Earth to switch naturally from hot to cold and vice versa due to cooling or heating of Pacific waters every few years. Hsiang and his team saw a strong correlation; in these alternate and instantaneous moves in climate, to conflicts across the globe.

After studying data collected from 234 clashes killing 25 people across the Earth between 1950 and 2004, they found out that tropical nations like India, Sudan and Peru were most affected by ENSO swings. The probability of violence doubled to 6% with 48 more clashes occurring when El Nino was active. This was reported in Nature in the online edition. They also reported that nations immune to El Nino like France, China and USA, the probability of civil war remained static at 2%. What they could not prove was the relation between violence spreading and EL Nino in poverty-ridden nations.

Thomas Homer Dixon a social sciences and nature researcher at the University of Waterloo, Canada, relates the connection between Climate and Violence to History and also says that the economy of these nations are mainly dependant of Agriculture. He gave the example of the Cambodian city of Angkor, whose economy depended on Agriculture, which in turn was dependant on the city’s network of monsoon dependent irrigation canals. Invaders ravaged this city, in the mid-15th century when the canals started to dry and poverty was rampant.

A prominent critic of Miguel, Howard Buhaug said that the main cause of civil wars was politics, civil society and economy and had nothing to do with climatic changes. He also added that that the results of the study were worth pursuing, and establishing the relation between civil conflicts and climate will help in a long way to prevent conflicts in the future. Howard Buhaug is from the Oslo, and a relation’s specialist at the Center for the study of Civil War.

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