Sociologist Agnew: Hotter World, Bloodier Crime

Sep. 4, 2012

Bob AgnewHigher global temperatures may spur more violent crime, according to a theoretical model posited by Robert Agnew, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Sociology. His study, “Dire forecast: A theoretical model of the impact of climate change on crime,” appeared in the February 2012 issue of journal Theoretical Criminology.

Agnew writes, “There is good reason to believe that climate change will become one of the major forces driving crime as the century progresses.” Droughts, famine and extreme weather may mean that “as individuals, groups, and states struggle to cope with the effects of climate change, their ability to legally adapt to further effects will decline.”

Another study exploring weather and crime, found that violent crime rates do indeed rise along with temperature, but only up to a point: “Higher ambient temperatures expected with climate change may result in marginal shifts in violent crime in the short term, but are not likely to be accompanied by markedly higher rates of violent crime and associated increased incidence of injury and death. . . . A temperature threshold appeared to exist (at approximately 90°F) where the positive relationship between mean temperature and violent crimes became negative,” according to the authors, Jeremy Hess, associate professor of emergency medicine at Emory and a colleague at the Environmental Protection Agency. The paper appears in the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine.

The authors also concluded, “Regardless of the implications of a warming climate, the associations between temperature and violent crime offer opportunities for enhanced prevention and preparedness.”

An article in the August 24 Washington Post summarizes both papers.

To read the Washington Post article, click here: 

To read the paper co-authored by Jeremy Hess, click here.

To read the abstract of the paper by Robert Agnew, click here.

—Steve Frandzel

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