Purpose of Review
An important question regarding rapid climate change concerns its likely effects on violence. Rapid climate change is likely to produce sociological, political, economic, and psychological changes that will increase the likelihood of violent behavior. This article examines relevant theory and research.
We examine three lines of research: (a) how hot temperatures directly influence aggression and violence; (b) how rapid climate change indirectly increases adulthood violence proneness through its effects on physiological and psychological development; (c) and how ecomigration influences group-level aggression. We also discuss arguments against the effects of climate change on aggression and violence.
Research and theory reveal three ways that rapid global warming can increase aggression and violence. We describe a model showing the relationship between rapid global warming on antisocial behaviors and risk factors for aggression and violence.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance
Montesquieu C. The spirit of the laws (Cohler A, Miller B, Stone H, Trans.). New York: Cambridge University Press. (Original work published in 1748); 1989.
Anderson CA. Heat and violence. Curr Dir Psychol Sci. 2001;10(1):33–8.
Perry JD, Simpson ME. Violent crimes in a city: environmental determinants. Enviorn Behav. 1987;19(1):77–90.
Anderson CA. Temperature and aggression: ubiquitous effects of heat on the occurrence of human violence. Psychol Bull. 1989;106(1):4–96.
Raftery AE, Zimmer A, Frierson DMW, Startz R, Liu P. Less than 2 °C warming by 2100 unlikely. Nat Clim Chang. 2017;7:637–41.
Piguet E, Pécoud A, Guchteneire PD. Migration and climate change: an overview. Refug Surv Q. 2011;30(3):1–23.
Reuveny R. Climate change-induced migration and violent conflict. Polit Geogr. 2007;26(6):656–73.
Anderson CA, Bushman BJ. Human aggression. Annu Rev Psychol. 2002;53(1):27–51.
DeWall CN, Anderson CA, Bushman BJ. The general aggression model: theoretical extensions to violence. Psychol Violence. 2011;1(3):245–58.
• Warburton WA, Anderson CA. Aggression. In: Zeigler-Hill V, Shackelford TK, editors. The SAGE handbook of personality and individual differences. Thousand Oaks: Sage; 2018. p. 183–211. A review on the psychology of human aggression.
Bushman BJ, Anderson CA. Is it time to pull the plug on the hostile versus instrumental aggression dichotomy? Psychol Rev. 2001;108(1):273–9.
Anderson CA, Anderson KB. Temperature and aggression: paradox, controversy, and a (fairly) clear picture. In: Geen R, Donnerstein E, editors. Human aggression: theories, research, and implications for social policy. San Diego: Academic; 1998. p. 247–98.
Anderson CA, Anderson KB, Dorr N, DeNeve KM, Flanagan M. Temperature and aggression. Adv Expier Soc Psychol. 2000;32:63–133.
•• Plante C, Allen JJ, Anderson CA. Likely effects of rapid climate change on violence and conflict. In: Oglesby L, editor. The oxford research encyclopedia of climate science. Oxford; Oxford University Press; 2017. A comprehensive review of the psychological effects of climate change.
Berkowitz L. Frustration-aggression hypothesis: examination and reformulation. Psychol Bull. 1989;106(1):59–73.
Maystadt JF, Ecker O. Extreme weather and civil war: does drought fuel conflict in Somalia through livestock price shocks? Am J Agric Econ. 2014;96(4):1157–82.
•• Zetter R. Why they are not refugees – climate change, environmental degradation and population displacement. Siirtolaisuus-Migr Q. 2017;1:23–8 An argument against the notion of climate-induced migration and its potential effects.
Wilkowski BM, Meier BP, Robinson MD, Carter MS, Feltman R. “Hotheaded” is more than an expression: the embodied representation of anger in terms of heat. Emotion. 2009;9(4):464–77.
Vrij A, Van der Steen J, Koppelaar L. Aggression of police officers as a function of temperature: an experiment with the fire arms training system. J Community Appl Soc Psychol. 1994;4(5):365–70.
Anderson CA, Anderson KB. Violent crime rate studies in philosophical context: a destructive testing approach to heat and southern culture of violence effects. J Personality Soc Psychol. 1996;70(4):740–56.
Mares DM, Moffett KW. Climate change and interpersonal violence: a “global” estimate and regional inequities. Clim Chang. 2016;135(2):297–310.
Anderson CA, DeLisi M. Implications of global climate change for violence in developed and developing countries. Chapter in Forgas JA, Kruglanski A, Williams K, editors. The Psychology of Social Conflict and Aggression. New York: Psychology Press; 2011. p. 249–265.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (IPCC). In: Parry ML, Canziani OF, Paultikof JP, van der Linden PJ, Hanson CE, editors. Intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2007.
Anderson CA, Anderson DC. Ambient temperature and violent crime: tests of the linear and curvilinear hypotheses. J Personality Soc Psychol. 1984;46(1):91–7.
Bushman BJ, Wang MC, Anderson CA. Is the curve relating temperature to aggression linear or curvilinear? Assaults and temperature in Minneapolis reexamined. J Personality Soc Psychol. 2005;89(1):62–6.
Bushman BJ, Wang MC, Anderson CA. Is the curve relating temperature to aggression linear or curvilinear? A response to Bell (2005) and to Cohn and Rotton (2005). J Personality Soc Psychol. 2005;89(1):74–7.
Anderson CA, Bushman BJ, Groom RW. Hot years and serious and deadly assault: empirical tests of the heat hypothesis. J Personality Soc Psychol. 1997;73(6):1213–23.
Auliciems A, DiBartolo L. Domestic violence in a subtropical environment: police calls and weather in Brisbane. Int J Biometeorol. 1995;39(1):34–9.
Yasayko J. Attacks on transit drivers as a function of ambient temperature. Master’s Thesis, Simon Fraser University; 2010.
Bulbena A, Sperry L, Garcia Ribera C, Merino A, Mateu G, Torrens M, et al. Impact of the summer 2003 heat wave on the activity of two psychiatric emergency departments. Actas Esp de Psiquiatr. 2009;37(3):158–65.
Carlsmith JM, Anderson CA. Ambient temperature and the occurrence of collective violence: a new analysis. J Personality Soc Psychol. 1979;37(3):337–44.
Kenrick DT, MacFarlane SW. Ambient temperature and horn honking: a field study of the heat/aggression relation. Environ Behav. 1986;18(2):179–91.
Kruglanski AW, Chen X, Deschesne M, Fishman S, Orehek E. Fully committed: suicide bombers’ motivation and the quest for personal significance. Polit Psychol. 2009;30(3):331–57.
Reifman AS, Larrick RP, Fein S. Temper and temperature on the diamond: the heat-aggression relation in Major League Baseball. Personal Soc Psychol Bull. 1991;17(5):580–5.
Dun O, Gemenne F. Defining ‘environmental migration’. Forced Migr. 2009;31:10–1.
Van de Vliert E. Climato-economic origins of variation in ingroup favoritism. J Cross-Cult Psychol. 2011;42(3):494–515.
Van de Vliert E. Bullying the media: cultural and climato-economic readings of press repression versus press freedom. Appl Psychol. 2011;60(3):354–76.
Van de Vliert E, Schwartz SH, Huismans SE, Hofstede G, Daan S. Temperature, cultural masculinity, and domestic political violence: a cross-national study. J Cross-Cult Psychol. 1999;30(3):291–314.
•• Van Lange PA, Rinderu MI, Bushman BJ. Aggression and violence around the world: a model of climate, aggression, and self-control in humans (CLASH). Behav Brain Sci. 2017;40:1–63 A response to some of the concerns over the CLASH model.
Gottfredson MR, Hirschi T. A general theory of crime. Stanford: Stanford University Press; 1990.
Moffitt TE. Adolescence-limited and life-course-persistent antisocial behavior: a developmental taxonomy. Psychol Rev. 1993;100:674–701.
DeLisi M. Career criminals in society. Thousand Oaks: Sage; 2005.
Herring SC, Hoerling MP, Kossin JP, Peterson TC, Stott PA, editors. Explaining extreme events of 2014 from a climate perspective. Bull Am Meteorol Soc. 2015;96(12):S1–S172.
Liu J, Raine A, Venables PH, Mednick SA. Malnutrition at age 3 years and externalizing behavior problems at ages 8, 11, and 17 years. Am J Psychiatry. 2004;161(11):2005–13.
Neugebauer R, Hoek HW, Susser E. Prenatal exposure to wartime famine and development of antisocial personality disorder in early adulthood. J Am Med Assoc. 1999;282(5):455–62.
Huston AC, Bentley A. Human development in societal context. Annu Rev Psychol. 2010;61:411–37.
Chen E, Cohen S, Miller GE. How low socioeconomic status affects 2-year hormonal trajectories in children. Psychol Sci. 2010;21(1):31–7.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (IPCC). In: Parry ML, Canziani OF, Paultikof JP, van der Linden PJ, Hanson CE, editors. Intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2013.
•• Plante C, Anderson CA. Global warming and violent behavior. Assoc Psychol Sci. 2017. Another comprehensive review of the psychological effects of climate change.
Agnew J. Waterpower: politics and the geography of water provision. Ann Assoc Am Geogr. 2011;101(3):463–76.
Doherty TJ, Clayton S. The psychological impacts of global climate change. Am Psychol. 2011;66(4):265–76.
Archibald S, Richards P. Converts to human rights? Popular debate about war and justice in rural Sierra Leone, Africa. J Int Afr Inst. 2002;72(3):339–67.
Hage G. “Comes a time we are all enthusiasm”: understanding Palestinian suicide bombers in times of exighophobia. Publ Cult. 2003;15(1):65–89.
Keen D. Incentives and disincentives for violence. In: Berdal M, Malone D, editors. Greed and grievance: economic agendas and civil wars. Boulder: Lynne Rienner; 2000. p. 19–42.
Reno W. War, markets, and the reconfiguration of West Africa’s weak states. Comp Polit. 1997;29(4):493–510.
Stewart F. Crisis prevention: tackling horizontal inequalities. Oxf Dev Stud. 2000;28(3):245–63.
Barnett J, Adger W. Climate change, human security and violent conflict. Polit Geogr. 2007;26(6):639–55.
Goodhand J. Enduring disorder and persistent poverty: a review of linkages between war and chronic poverty. World Dev. 2003;31(3):629–46.
Nafziger E, Auvinen J. Economic development, inequality, war, and state violence. World Dev. 2002;30(2):153–63.
Ohlsson L. Livelihood conflicts: linking poverty and environment as causes of conflict. Stockholm: Environmental Policy Unit, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency; 2000.
Kruglanski AW, Orehek E. The role of the quest for personal significance in motivating terrorism. Chapter in Forgas J, Kruglanski A, Williams K, editors. The psychology of social conflict and aggression. New York: Psychology Press; 2011. p. 153–166.
Goodell J. The pentagon & climate change: how deniers put national security at risk. New York: Rolling Stone; 2015.
Maclure R, Sotelo M. Youth gangs in Nicaragua: gang membership as structured individualization. J Youth Stud. 2004;7(4):417–32.
Mwanasali M. The view from below. In: Berdal M, Malone D, editors. Greed and grievance: economic agendas and civil wars. Boulder: Lynne Rienner; 2000. p. 137–53.
Stewart F, Fitzgerald V. The economic and social consequences of conflict. In: War and underdevelopment, vol. 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2000.
Weinstein J. Resources and the information problem in rebel recruitment. Paper presented at the conference on Curbing human rights violations by non-state armed groups. Vancouver: Centre of International Relations, Liu Institute for Global Issues, University of British Columbia; 2004.
Caspi A, McClay J, Moffitt TE, Mill J, Martin J, Craig IW, et al. Role of genotype in the cycle of violence in maltreated children. Science. 2002;297(5582):851–4.
Fritsche I, Cohrs JC, Kessler T, Bauer J. Global warming is breeding social conflict: the subtle impact of climate change threat on authoritarian tendencies. J Enviorn Psychol. 2012;32(1):1–10.
• Rettberg J, Gajjala R. Terrorists or cowards: negative portrayals of male Syrian refugees in social media. Fem Media Stud. 2016;16(1):1 This case study shows the negative reactions we see from in-groups towards immigrants coming into their country.
Saleem M, Anderson CA. Arabs as terrorists: effects of stereotypes within violent contexts on attitudes, perceptions and affect. Psychol Violence. 2013;3(1):84–99.
• Saleem M, Prot S, Anderson CA, Lemieux AF. Exposure to Muslims in media and support for public policies harming Muslims. Commu Res. 2017;44(6):841–69 This is another excellent review on how people can treat an out-group, and how the media can change the perceptions of out-groups.
• Coccia M. A theory of general causes of violent crime: homicides, income inequality and deficiencies of the heat hypothesis and of the model of CLASH. Aggress Violent Behav. 2017;37:190–200 An excellent review and counter to the proposal of the CLASH model.
•• Selby J, Dahi O, Fröhlich C, Mike H. Climate change and the Syrian civil war revisited. Polit Geogr. 2017;60:232–44 An important continuation about the role of climate change on the Syrian conflict.
Kelley CP, Mohtadi S, Cane M, Seager R, Kushnir Y. Climate change and the recent Syrian drought. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2015;112(11):3241–6.
•• Hendrix CS. Searching for climate–conflict links. Nat Clim Chang. 2018;8:190–1 This paper notes how other factors can impact the conflicts we see in specific regions that are affected by migration and climate change.
Stavropoulou M. Drowned in definitions? Forced Migr. 2009;31:11–2.
Warner K, Dun O, Stal M. Field observations and empirical research. Forced Migr. 2009;31:13–4.
•• Freeman L. Environmental change, migration, and conflict in Africa: a critical examination of the interconnections. J Environ Dev. 2017;26(4):351–74 Freeman offers excellent insight on the intricacies and many different variables that cause conflict.
•• Cattaneo C, Bosetti B. Climate-induced international migration and conflicts. CESifo Econ Stud. 2017;63(4):500–28 An excellent analysis on climate-induced migration and conflict.
•• Papaioannou K. Climate shocks and conflict: evidence from colonial Nigeria. Polit Geogr. 2016;50:33–47 This paper uses the example of conflict in Nigeria to exemplify the effects of climate on conflict.
Salehyan I, Hendrix C. Climate shocks and political violence. Global Environ Chang. 2014;28:239–50.
Hallegatte S, Bangalore M, Bonzanigo L, Fay M, Kane T, Narloch U, et al. Shock waves: managing the impacts of climate change on poverty. Washington, DC: Climate Change and Development Series; 2016.
O’Loughlin J, Linke AM, Witmer FDW. Effects of temperature and precipitation variability on the risk of violence in sub-Saharan Africa. 1980-2012. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2014;111:16712–7.
Raleigh C, Linke A, O’Loughlin J. Extreme temperatures and violence. Nat Clim Chang. 2014;4:76–7.
Raleigh C, Urdal H. Climate change, environmental degradation and armed conflict. Polit Geogr. 2007;26(6):674–94.
Van de Vliert E. Climato-economic habitats support patterns of human needs, stresses, and freedoms. Behav Brain Sci. 2013;36(5):465–521.
Mares D. Climate change and levels of violence in socially disadvantaged neighborhood groups. J Urban Health. 2013;90(4):768–83.
• Page S. People’s Climate March draws 200,000 protesters as Trump flees to coal country. In: ThinkProgress; 2017. This article shows us the concern over climate change in the public, and the protests that surrounded that outrage last spring.
Zaval L, Markowitz EM, Weber EU. How will I be remembered? Conserving the environment for the sake of one’s legacy. Psychol Sci. 2015;26(2):231–6.
Conflict of Interest
On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.
Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent
This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
This article is part of the Topical Collection on Climate Change and Conflict
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Miles-Novelo, A., Anderson, C.A. Climate Change and Psychology: Effects of Rapid Global Warming on Violence and Aggression. Curr Clim Change Rep 5, 36–46 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40641-019-00121-2