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Climate Change, Weather Disasters: Read All About It: The Sociopolitical Effects of Climate Change

by Bruce E. Johansen

The Sociopolitical Effects of Climate Change

Beyond El Niño and La Niña, global warming has worldwide sociopolitical effects that can influence the course of large-scale events, such as migrations, wars, and global public health. This has been the case in Pakistan, for example, which experienced “unprecedented massive monsoon rains” in 2011, leading to flooding that displaced over one million people, as the Environment News Service reported in “Pakistan: Another Victim of Climate Change.” 

In India, with annual drought and deluge cycles, much of its precipitation falls during a roughly three-month monsoon season, and the difference between drought and deluge can be very narrow. Even a change lasting only one season cycle in a nation with 1.4 billion people can yield severe damage to agriculture and severe hunger for millions of people. Meera Subramanian covers this in A River Runs Again, while Shyamantha Asokan delves into the issue of water rights in her Washington Post article “Indian States Fight over River Usage.” Similarly Vikas Bajaj touches on the deluge/drought disparity in the New York Times article “Crops in India Wilt in a Weak Monsoon Season.” Meanwhile, the Nature article “Prepare Farms for the Future” mines possible solutions to this climatic destruction. 

In fact, food insecurity is a major concern globally as human populations, climate change, and chemical pollution increase worldwide. Several articles and essays have touched on this growing threat over the last ten years, including Bruce Campbell’s “Climate Change: Call for UN to Act on Food Security”; “Nitrate Assimilation Is Inhibited by Elevated CO2 in Field-Grown Wheat,” by Arnold J. Bloom et al.; Seth Borenstein’s “UN Panel: Warming Worsens Food, Hunger Problems”; D. Baldocchi and E. Waller’s “Winter Fog Is Decreasing in the Fruit-Growing Region of the Central Valley of California”; “Signature of Ocean Warming in Global Fisheries Catch,” by William Cheung et al.; “Slow Adaptation in the Face of Rapid Warming Leads to Collapse of the Gulf of Maine Cod Fishery,” by Andrew J. Pershing et al.; “Adaptive Potential of a Pacific Salmon Challenged by Climate Change,” by Nicolas J. Muñoz et al.; and Robert F. Service’s “Meager Snows Spell Trouble Ahead for Salmon.” 

Turning to the Middle East, Colin Kelley et al. examine drought in “Climate Change in the Fertile Crescent and Implications of the Recent Syrian Drought,” while Thomas Erdbrink similarly discusses this effect in “Scarred Riverbeds and Dead Pistachio Trees in a Parched Iran.” Seth Borenstein highlights the consequences of global warming on conflict in “Syria’s Civil War Linked Partly to Drought, Global Warming.” More broadly, Carl-Friedrich Schleussner et al. examine global warming’s ramifications in the context of conflict in “Armed-Conflict Risks Enhanced by Climate-Related Disasters in Ethnically Fractionalized Countries.”

For considerations of the effect on public health, readers should see Paul R. Epstein and Dan Ferber’s Changing Planet, Changing Health and “Climate Change: Policy Responses to Protect Public Health,” by Nick Watts et al.