Human Ecology pp 255-272 | Cite as

Does Climate Change Affect War Frequency? The Case of Eastern China

  • David D. Zhang
  • Jane Zhang
  • Harry F. Lee
  • Yuan-qing He


Past research using the paradigm of “historical particularism” has tended to reduce the fundamental causes of warfare to various economic, political, or ethnic sources. Webster (1975), using Darwin’s concept of natural selection to examine a number of prehistoric and early historic societies, concludes that warfare is an “adaptive ecological choice” under circumstances of population growth and resource limitation. Recent studies also support the argument that resource scarcity and environmental degradation are both significant factors in generating armed conflicts throughout human history. However, none of these deal specifically with the probable contribution of climate change as a causal triggering factor. For example, historians of China speak of a war-peace cycle characterized by prosperity in the upswing when a new dynasty was established, and by increasing poverty in the downswing as the dynasty weakened. The fall of dynasties and the related social turmoil (i.e., internecine warfare and population collapse) were attributed to the degeneracy of the court (Zhao 1994). Although this generalization can account for instances of war-peace cycles, it cannot explain their timing or periodicity.


Temperature Anomaly Armed Conflict Ming Dynasty Annual Scale Warm Phase 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • David D. Zhang
    • 1
  • Jane Zhang
    • 1
  • Harry F. Lee
    • 1
  • Yuan-qing He
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of Hong KongHong KongChina

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