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Farmers protest in India Hindustan Times/Getty Images

Weathering the Violence of Climate Change

Ongoing research has established that as global temperatures rise and droughts become more common, political agitation, social unrest, and even violence will follow. As world leaders grapple with the environmental effects of climate change, they also need to confront the direct threat that it poses to global security.

SANTA MONICA – With India experiencing its worst drought in 140 years, Indian farmers have taken to the streets. At a protest in Madhya Pradesh this summer, police opened fire on farmers demanding debt relief and better crop prices, killing five. In Tamil Nadu, angry growers have held similar protests, and lit candles in remembrance of those killed. And at one rally in New Delhi, farmers carried human skulls, which they say belonged to farmers who have committed suicide following devastating crop losses over the past six months.

According to a recent study by Tamma A. Carleton of the University of California, Berkeley, suicides among Indian farmers have increased with the temperature, such that an increase of 1º Celsius above the average temperature on a given day is associated with approximately 70 additional suicides, on average.

Beyond exposing failed farming policies, this year’s drought-fueled turmoil also underscores the threat that climate change poses not just to India, but to all countries. As global temperatures rise and droughts become more common, political agitation, social unrest, and even violence will likely follow.

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