The new study argues that amid growing concern by some scientists that climate change is fraught with dangerous consequences for the Earth’s natural ecosystem and the global economy, there may be other, equally dangerous links to changing weather conditions.
When extreme weather conditions manifest itself in the form of droughts or heavy rainfall, it could be a sign of impending war.
A group of scientists led by Santa Fe Institute professor Rajiv Sethi (Barnard College, Columbia University) and Takseung Jun of Kyung Hee University in South Korea discovered the connection by studying the oldest surviving document of Korean history, the Samguk Sagi, or the History of the Three Kingdoms.
It chronicles the historical events of Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla, the three states that ruled the Korean Peninsula from 18 BC. before 660 AD, it was written in Classical Chinese, the written language of ancient Korean scholars.
The historical document was commissioned by King Goryeo Injong (1122–1146) and executed by government official and historian Kim Busik, who was joined by a group of young scholars.
Completed in 1145, it is the oldest record of Korean history.
As scientists analyzed the centuries-old reports of conflicts and extreme weather events in the paper, they found more and more data to support their conclusions, suggesting a strong link between weather events and human conflict.
The study “Extreme Weather Events and Military Conflict Over Seven Centuries in Ancient Korea,” published as a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), argues that the likelihood of states being drawn into armed conflict with a neighbor while fighting weather cataclysms such as drought or rainstorms are very high.
Moreover, the analysis showed that extreme climatic shocks are much more likely to lead to invasion of an “enemy” state than to induce it to retreat.
Food insecurity was also identified in the study as a critical source of vulnerability to invasion.
As the work sheds new light on the potential links between climate change and war, the researchers believe it may ultimately prove useful in identifying areas of the world that are particularly vulnerable to climate-related conflicts.