Fossil Fuels Promote Peace, Climate Panel Participants Say

Published April 28, 2017

Panelists discussing “Fossil Fuels & World Peace” at The Heartland Institute’s 12th International Conference on Climate Change said fossil fuels have made the world less subject to conflict, a starkly different picture from what is promoted by global warming “alarmists.”

Panelists included Dennis Avery, and independent scholar and senior fellow for The Heartland Institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News; Craig Idso, chairman of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide; and Aaron Stover, a policy analyst for The Heartland Institute. They discussed the role global temperature and climate change have had in driving conflict within and among nations.

In contrast with recent attempts to link conflict with human-caused climate change—including papers suggesting unrest in Syria and other Middle Eastern nations is related to drought, which ignore or downplay the fact droughts have occurred for millennia in the region—the panelists presented evidence warm periods have historically been more peaceful than cold eras.

Cold = Privation, Strife

Avery provided context for the panel by detailing how warming and cooling have influenced the prevalence of conflict throughout human history. Avery reported 80 percent of China’s tumultuous wars occurred during “little ice ages.”

“No nation has had more wars and rebellions than China, because its food production is especially vulnerable to climate change,” Avery said.

Avery also noted the Thirty Years’ War, the Napoleonic wars, the Crimean War, and major rebellions in Albania, Belgium, Hungary, and Ireland all occurred during the most recent little ice age. In addition, extended periods of drought and starvation, and epidemics of disease, such as the Black Death, have historically occurred more often and lasted longer during periods of prolonged cold than times of warmth, Avery said.

Cold, Crop Collapse, and War

Idso, a longtime researcher into how plants respond to increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, explained cold periods have traditionally been more war-prone because colder weather shortens growing seasons. Shorter growing seasons historically have caused food supplies to plummet, increasing competition for scarce resources.

Citing historical trends showing conflict increases when there is less food to go around, Idso said increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere should decrease conflict because staple food crops such as corn, soybeans, rice, wheat, and potatoes have greater yields when exposed to higher levels of carbon dioxide.

In addition to stimulating plant growth and improving yields, higher carbon-dioxide levels also make plants more resistant to drought and more efficient with the amount of water they use. Higher levels of carbon dioxide also cause plants to grow faster. For these reasons, virtually all greenhouses add carbon dioxide to their enclosures to increase the rate of plant growth and water-use efficiency, Idso said.

Stover’s presentation focused on the varied incentives driving the negotiating positions of different countries in the Paris Climate Agreement and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. Stover said politics and economics, not climate change, are the primary forces driving conflict today.

Isaac Orr ([email protected]) is a research fellow for energy and environmental policy at The Heartland Institute.