Will climate change lead to World War III?


FILE – In this Oct. 30, 2012 file photo, the intersection of 8th Street and Atlantic Avenue is flooded in Ocean City, N.J., after the storm surge from Superstorm Sandy flooded much of the town. New satellite research shows that global warming is making seas rise at an ever increasing rate. Scientists say melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica is speeding up sea level rise so that by the year 2100 on average oceans will be two feet higher than today, probably even more. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

Climate change is undoubtedly one of the greatest issues facing our planet today. Whether it’s the threat of the sea levels rising, the extreme weather or the impact changing environments have on our ability to grow crops and produce food, there are many challenges that come with the looming dangers of our drastically changing climate. Many scientists and researchers are searching for ways to slow down or stop the process altogether, as well as working hard to find ways to reduce the impact that these side effects of climate change can cause. However, there is one possible reaction to climate change that scientists may not be able to solve on their own, that is not always considered when thinking about the environment: war.

For quite some time, scientists and historians alike have been wondering whether our changing climate will result in World War III. Television and movies have portrayed this phenomenon. Novels have been written about a post-apocalyptic planet torn apart by war and harsh environments. According to Hollywood, the conflict is imminent. However, not everyone agrees with this point of view.

Some experts think that climate change will most definitely push us closer to a major war. In fact, some argue that it already has. In 2015, both Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders spoke about the ways in which climate change added to conflicts currently around the world. The president discussed the indirect ways this has happened, saying, “climate change did not cause the conflicts we see around the world…It’s now believed that drought and crop failures and high food prices helped fuel the early unrest.”  Clearly, while climate change may not be the focal point of current wars, it is not unreasonable to think that they add to the conflict. It is easy to believe that tension due to a lack of resources could increase the tendency for people to resort to violence in the face of adversity. This may be an indirect cause now, but in the future as climate change worsens, the roots of the issue will only have spread and become more severe.

Of course, there are other experts who disagree with the claim that environmental changes make war more likely. Recently, a study was released by Nature Climate Change indicating that the link between climate change and increased conflict is biased. “Research on climate change and conflict primarily focuses on a few accessible regions, overstates the links between both phenomena and cannot explain peaceful outcomes from climate change.” This study was done as a literature review, and had the researchers reading over 100 articles that pertained to the effects of the climate on war and conflict, with the conclusion that the argument other experts had made on the topic did not have strong enough ties to actually be causal. Thus, for those of us concerned about an upcoming World War III, there are some experts who do not feel as “doomsday” about the future as the rest.

However, whether you side with the scientists who believe climate change will bring about another war or not, it is clear that we have a problem here. It is obvious that climate change itself is an issue, and its side effects, whether they include war or not, are going to cause huge problems for people on this planet in the future. While the possibilities of coming droughts, famine and altogether lack of resources may not lead countries to conflict, these primary outcomes will still be large issues to future generations. Even if we are unsure about our concert for war, these are things we should be concerned about.

While Hollywood may already have decided what will happen to our planet when climate change worsens, experts believe the topic is still up for debate. Either way, the idea that climate change could increase the chance of a violent conflict in our world does not seem like as much of a fantasy as many would like to believe. No matter which side of the argument you fall on, it is clear that climate change is a growing concern for our planet and needs to be addressed, if not for the threat of of war, then for the threat of all the other side effects that climate change can cause.

Emma Hungaski is the associate opinion editor  for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at emma.hungaski@uconn.edu.

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