A new paper questions the growing body of evidence that weather fluctuations can prompt wars, but researchers have doubts about its value.
The paper arrives into a field deeply polarized between researchers who endorse a link between climate change and violence and those who reject one. For scholars who approve of the link, the paper doesn’t prove its point or even say much of anything new. And while researchers who rebuff the link are more charitable to the paper, they also do not think it throws the field’s most famous studies into question—because they already questioned the veracity of that work.
“Some may read this paper as saying that there’s lots of literature that says climate change causes conflict, and that this literature is based on sampling errors,” says Jan Selby, a professor of international relations at the University of Sussex. “But even before this paper, there was huge disagreement about what links could be made between climate change and conflict. And irrespective of the question of sampling error, I think the evidence in many of those papers is really weak.”