OPINION: A hotter world will be a more violent world. Here’s why

Published in Reuters

By Robert Muggah and Mac Margolis

The notion that warmer weather can make us more violent is not new. The link between mercury and murder is a familiar trope of pulp fiction and the classics. ‘These hot days, is the mad blood stirring,” Benvolio says before the Capulets and Montagues duel in the streets of Shakespeare’s sweltering Verona.

Scholars have been quarrelling over the topic since the 19th century, but accelerating climate change promises to fever the debate. If we believe, with Montesquieu, that excessive heat saps the body of vigor and dulls the mind, a growing number of sociologists, psychologists and criminologists warn that extreme weather is fuel for violent crime and delinquent behavior.

Former Scottish prison governor David Wilson once lobbied to have air conditioning installed in some of the country’s most violent prisons on a bet that colder temperatures lead to cooler heads. Wilson, a criminologist, noted that August is the cruelest month, citing studies pointing to a 10 percent increase in murders in the dead of Scottish summer. His prison campaign fell short – on grounds that convicts shouldn’t get to chill on the tax-payers tab.

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