Global Warming to Trigger Increase in Violence in U.S., Comprehensive Study of Crime, Weather and Climate Change Confirms

Study is first to combine crime and weather data in every county in the continental U.S. over 30 years

25 Feb, 2014, 08:00 ET from Abt Associates

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Feb. 25, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Violent as well as less serious crimes will escalate in the United States as a result of climate change, indicates a study by Abt Associates' Dr. Matthew Ranson—the most comprehensive study to date on the topic—published online in the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management(JEEM). 

The study, the first to examine and combine crime statistics and weather data for each of the nearly 3,000 counties in the continental United States, over a 30-year period, shows that between 2010 and 2099, climate change will cause an increase in a wide range of criminal activity nationwide. This includes an additional 20,000 murders, 200,000 cases of rape, and 3.5 million cases of assault over the next 100 years.

"Temperature has a strong effect on criminal behavior.  When temperatures rise, so does crime," Ranson said.  "That's been historically true and it's unlikely to change in the future."

Ranson said that "even moderate temperatures have a strong influence on violent crime," and that while the rise in U.S. crime rates over the next 100 years is a modest one to three percent increase, "the impact on victims and law enforcement will be substantial."

Ranson's findings, starting with the prediction by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of a jump in global temperatures of five degrees Fahrenheit, were drawn from three decades of weather data from the National Climatic Data Center and crime statistics over the same time period from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports database.

The study is described online in "Crime, Weather and Climate Change" in the JEEM  issue due out in hard copy in early April.

About Abt Associates
Abt Associates is a mission-driven, global leader in research and program implementation in the fields of health, social and environmental policy, and international development. Known for its rigorous approach to solving complex challenges, Abt Associates is regularly ranked as one of the top 20 global research firms and one of the top 40 international development innovators.  The company has multiple offices in the U.S. and program offices in nearly 40 countries.

SOURCE Abt Associates