By Heba Essam
As part of today’s climate talks, the ‘material damage’ to infrastructure and resources is frequently highlighted. One can say that the consequences of climate change have received some attention. But still, the rate at which global warming is affecting people on a global scale and how it will affect human nature, particularly in terms of aggressive and violent behavior, have received far less.
In this regard, Craig Anderson and Andreas Miles-Novelo try in their book: ‘Climate Change and Human Behavior’ to map out the many ways in which rising temperatures and severe weather events might influence one’s thoughts and actions. Drawing on previous studies, they show how such effects at the individual and societal levels can lead to political upheaval, civil war or other violent conflicts. They suggest that addressing these difficulties in a proactive way can help cushion some of the long-term costs in the future.
On the one hand, as stated by authors, if the core body temperature exceeds a threshold, the brain redirects blood and oxygen to other parts of the body in an effort to cool down. When this occurs, one’s cognitive and emotional abilities, including their ability to encode new information, regulate emotions and restrain impulses, are negatively affected.
On the other hand, hotter temperatures drive people to perceive others as behaving aggressively. Anderson says that heat stress makes people more likely to resort to aggressiveness, and we can see this unfold over time and in different parts of the world.
Climate change also leads to increasingly severe and frequent droughts, wildfires, floods and hurricanes, and therefore puts individuals at a higher risk of hunger, malnutrition, economic instability and poverty. Massive numbers of people would even leave their homes in quest for better living conditions, which can lead to violent competition over resources.
But regardless of how grim the future might look, Anderson and Miles-Novelo explain that there are ways to lessen the negative effects of climate change, rather than to debate whether climate change is real. They suggest that scientists, policymakers and the media should assist the public in grasping the causal link between rapid global warming and everyday problems, working side-by-side with governments and corporations.
What we are facing today is relatively simple to solve in comparison to future issues that are likely to arise in the next half-century. Thus, governments and international organizations need to make good preparations for facing changes in human behavior. They need to integrate people into sustainable communities that make use of their abilities, skills and aspirations for building a healthier and safer future for all.