Tag: sociology

Rising Temperatures Fuel Increase in Violence: TAU Study

Findings demonstrate first direct link between climate change and criminal behavior.

Rising temperatures increase the likelihood of violent crimes, according to a new study led by Tel Aviv University‘s Dr. Ram Fishman of TAU’s Department of Public Policy, Gershon H. Gordon Faculty of Social Sciences

The novel findings indicate that for every 1-degree Celsius rise over the average daily temperature, the rate of violent crime spikes by one percent. The victims are generally ethnic and religious minorities, women, and political rivals.

The study is the first of its kind to link the day-to-day relationship between weather changes and criminal trends in the developing world.  

​“This is a glaring warning sign of the devastating and worrying consequences of the global climate crisis,” said Fishman, who conducted the study with partners from the UAE, India and the US. “These consequences are already here with us and are gnawing at the very foundations of social and human existence.” 

Dr. Ram Fishman (Photo: Noga Shahar)

In the context of the study, Fishman examined a representative state in India with a crime rate similar to the national average. Results from parallel studies in other countries yielded similar results according to Fishman, Head of the Sustainable Development Lab at TAU’s Boris Mints Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions to Global Challenges. He explained that the analysis performed in India can be tailored to other locations, where he expects similar results.   

The team gained unprecedented access to troves of crime records from 600 police stations in Karnataka, India. The “big data” sets included the exact date, location and type of crime reported over a six-year period. Using advanced statistical analysis methods, the researchers compared crime data to daily and seasonal weather conditions. In this way, they discovered the correlation between weather and crime at a level more accurate than previously possible. 

The researchers pointed to higher temperatures causing increased aggression as one likely factor driving this phenomenon. Further demonstrating the link between heat and higher day-to-day violent crime, the findings showed that non-violent property crimes were largely unaffected by daily weather. Fishman and team added that severe heat can cause lower agricultural yields, leading to higher unemployment rates and increased economic hardship. However, these economic motives were primarily associated with increased crime rates over time—not on a daily level. The study’s authors note that previous research in developing countries was limited. Population in these regions typically face relatively higher temperatures and are less able to shield themselves from these conditions. 

Their findings are in the December 2021 peer-reviewed issue of the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization

New Study Presents A Gloomy Climate Future for the Middle East

But Raises Hope the Region Could Become Part of the Solution to the Climate Crisis.

A fresh study conducted by Professor Dan Rabinowitz, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Gershon H. Gordon Faculty of Social Sciences at the Tel Aviv University, surveys regional climate models for the Middle East, analyzes climate inequalities and examines threats posed by global warming to security and political stability in the region.

In a new book published by Stanford University Press entitled ‘The Power of Deserts: Climate Change, the Middle East and the Promise of a Post-Oil Era’, Professor Rabinowitz argues that the region, already hotter and dryer than most parts, could soon see exacerbated water shortages, decreased agricultural productivity, large scale displacement and conflict as a result of a deteriorating climate.

  “The tragic cases of Sudan and Syria”, says Rabinowitz, “demonstrated what could happen when shrinking agricultural outputs force millions to leave rural hinterlands and seek refuge in cities which are ill-equipped and often unwilling to absorb them”. “Global warming”, he warns, “could turn such scenarios to a new normal in the Middle East, fanning further friction between ethnic groups, damaging instability and creating conflict”.

In a chapter dedicated to climate inequality, the book demonstrates that wealthier and more technologically advanced countries in the region, which are responsible for higher per-capita emissions of greenhouse gases, have the means to adapt to the Post Normal Climate Condition and protect themselves from its perils. This while poorer neighbors, whose contributions to the climate crisis has been significantly smaller, stand to suffer most.

‘The Power of Deserts’ however offers more than somber warnings. Its latter part in fact raises the surprising, counterintuitive notion that the Middle East could eventually become part of the solution to the climate crisis. Using his deep knowledge of the region and an ability to present scientific data with clarity and poise that has made him a leading Israeli voice on climate change, Rabinowitz makes a sober yet surprisingly optimistic exploration of an opportunity arising from a looming crisis.

The past 70 years, he says, in which oil reigned supreme, helped the oil-rich countries of the Persian Gulf accumulate legendary wealth. But with renewable sources of energy now eclipsing fossil fuels in transport and in electricity production everywhere, the age of oil is coming to an end.  Add a disconcerting climate prognosis, and the oil rich countries in the Middle East now look at a precarious future. The need to calculate a different pathway going forward has become imperative.

Their best bet, Rabinowitz argues, could be exploiting solar energy.  With  more than 300 sunny days a year, abundant unproductive land, good capital reserves available for investment and a good track record of integrating new technologies in civil infrastructure,  the Gulf states could drastically expand their use of solar energy for their domestic electricity production; invest heavily in renewable technologies and capacities around the world; then, at the right moment, turn their backs on oil and natural gas completely and, using their market power in the energy market ante, carve themselves a leading role in the energy universe of the future.

“Rather than resisting the energy transition, which was underway even before Covid-19 and was accelerated since,” says Rabinowitz, “the Gulf States could switch to the ‘right’ side of history, join the struggle to curb climate change and gain respect in the eyes of many who once looked at them with suspicion and contempt. Significantly, this transformation on their part does not hinge on an ideological rebirth and the adoption of a ‘green’ outlook. It could transpire as a rare historical junction where self-preservation on the part of some works to the benefit of many others”. 

Dan Rabinowitz, Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Tel-Aviv University, is Chairman of the Association for Environmental Justice in Israel. He was Head of TAU’s Porter School of Environmental Studies and Chairman of Greenpeace Mediterranean. He received the Pratt Prize for Environmental Journalism (2012) and the Green Globe award for environmental leadership (2016). 

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