Norwegian Scholars: "Resource And Population Negatively Correlated With War"
A higher carbon footprint is negatively correlated with the outbreak of war and control for income effects, say Norwegian political scientists. They believe that the Nobel Peace Prize this year has been inaccurately linked with the environment.
The Norwegian scientists collated convincing historic evidence about war situation and environmental settings globally over the years 1961-1999.
Neomalthusan theory (the theory that says wars are caused by dwindling food sufficiency) should be declared null and void.
In an article published in the peer-reviewed journal Population and Environment, researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) challenge the popular school of thought.
Thomas Malthus (1766-1834) developed the well-known theory that a country’s food production cannot keep up with its population growth over the long run. Starvation, war and early death would regulate the balance between food availability and population numbers. That means that the bulk of the population would live a minimalist existence.
Malthus' theory is pretty much standardly accepted theory among political scientists and sociologists. They see climate change and over-consumption of natural resources as a modern day illustration of Malthus’ theory.
Accepting the award of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, former US Vice President Al Gore Jr. made sure to underline this once more too, saying that
”Extensive climate changes may alter and threaten the living conditions of much of mankind. They may induce large-scale migration and lead to greater competition for the earth’s resources. Such changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the world’s most vulnerable countries. There may be increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states.”
However, the Norwegian political scientists beg to differ on this issue. Their research suggests that there is no connection between environmental crises and armed conflict.
They studied the environmental pressures in 150 countries in the period from 1961 to 1999. "By using an internationally recognized technique for measuring a country’s environmental sustainability, the ecological footprint, the researchers were able to compare these numbers with statistics on armed conflict during the same period.
The scientists' conclusion may seem paradoxical. "[Countries] where resources are heavily exploited show a clear connection to a lack of armed conflict", they found. Or alternatively, nations troubled by war during the research period had lower exploitation rates of their natural resources. The findings give researchers solid empirical support for stating that environmental scarcity is not the reason behind violent conflict.
The scientists say that there are of course exceptions. They also studied examples of recent areas stricken by conflicts and say that it can't be denied that some of these are caused by natural resource scarcity. Darfur, Sudan, Rwanda, Haiti and Somalia are examples of this.
"I have seen with my own eyes how climate change and resource scarcity, particularly when it comes to water and grazing lands, can fuel tensions", says Jan Egeland, director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI).
Egeland is the former UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. He used to be responsible for refugee issues, and has seen many conflicts across the globe that surely could have been caused by environmental crises.
In his previous job, Egeland has gone on the record saying that the Darfur conflict was the result of an environmental crisis. But following this research work, he said, he's now a little more uncertain of such a causal connection.
Malthus lived well before the later technological breakthroughs, such as the Green Revolution. This has 'altered his bleak global caloric intake equation', Binningsbø said.
The researchers relied in their ecological research on techniques developed by the Global Footprint Network, which specializes in measuring a country’s resource consumption compared to its ecological capacity.
The method is widely used as a measurement technique, but has also been criticised. Researchers have argued that the method can only be applied on a global basis, in as much as countries trade with each other, and therefore aren’t necessarily solely dependent on their own natural resources.
Tags: Norway , Peace , Conflict , Neomalthusan Theory , Norwegian University Of S , Angelique Van Engelen
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.