What passes for science: Mindless number games show El Niño correlates with civil war!

Even making allowance for the fact that it is August when “silly season” stories come to the fore, this nonsense  does not bring much credit to the authors, Columbia University, Nature or the sponsors of the “study” who include the U.S. EPA, the brother of George Soros and the Environmental Defense Fund. Gullible journalists who are short of copy and create headlines from this kind of junk science are plentiful.

Civil conflicts are associated with the global climate Solomon M. Hsiang, Kyle C. Meng & Mark A. Cane, Nature 476, 438–441 (25 August 2011) doi:10.1038/nature10311 

pdf version here


The Guardian leads –

Climate cycles linked to civil war, analysis shows

Cyclical climatic changes double the risk of civil wars, with analysis showing that 50 of 250 conflicts between 1950 and 2004 were triggered by the El Niño cycle, according to scientists.

Researchers connected the climate phenomenon known as El Niño, which brings hot and dry conditions to tropical nations and cuts food production, to outbreaks of violence in countries from southern Sudan to Indonesia and Peru.

Solomon Hsiang, who led the research at Columbia University, New York, said: “We can speculate that a long-ago Egyptian dynasty was overthrown during a drought. This study shows a systematic pattern of global climate affecting conflict right now. We are still dependent on climate to a very large extent.”

JunkScience gives it short shrift:

Weather causes war, a new study claims. So should we limit CO2 emissions and give peace a chance? Make love not CO2?

The study published in this week’s Nature claims to correlate El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycles with wars around the world during 1950-2009. The study’s intended implication, then, is that if only we can stop climate change (i.e., limit CO2 emissions), peace will be at hand.

The study’s major problem, however, is that even if there is a statistical correlation (pardon the redundancy) between ENSO events and wars, the study authors failed to examine any of the actual socio-political circumstances surrounding the wars. To insinuate weather cycles as a cause of or contributor to war simply because they can be correlated is to mindlessly exalt numerology over socio-political reality. 

Next ENSO cycles are real and result in actual weather phenomena. Extrapolating the actuality of ENSO to the dubious hypothesis of catastrophic manmade global warming, is yet another leap of faith. The goal of this research is to link CO2 emissions with national security. That is, we don’t just have to wish for world peace anymore; we can stop burning fossil fuels, cooling our homes, driving SUVs, eating meat, etc. It is merely a ploy to tug at the consciences of conservatives who, as a tribe, otherwise generally oppose Al Gore-ism.


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One Response to “What passes for science: Mindless number games show El Niño correlates with civil war!”

  1. The pseudoscience of climate wars: climate does not control human violence « The k2p blog Says:

    […] by playing rather silly numbers games – that conflict was linked to the El Niño cycles. “What passes for science: Mindless number games show El Niño correlates with civil war!&#822… Correlations do not necessarily indicate causality. It is not difficult to find correlations […]

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