BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder have published a new study linking climate change to an increase in crime. The new study was published Wednesday in Environmental Research Letters.
Researchers Ryan Harp and Kris Karnauskas mined an FBI crime database to understand the connections between global warming and crime rates, especially in winter. They found warmer winters appeared to be setting the stage for more violent crimes like assault and robbery, likely because milder weather created more opportunities for interactions between people.
“Depending on how quickly temperatures rise, we could see two to three million more violent crimes between now and the end of the century than there would be in a non-warming world,” said Ryan Harp, researcher at CU’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES).
Harp and Karnauskas are projecting future violent crimes by combining the mathematical relationships they uncovered in previous work with output from 42 global climate models. The team accounted for key factors that previous studies have overlooked, including variations in crime rates across seasons and for different regions of the country.
“We are just beginning to scratch the surface on the myriad ways climate change is impacting people, especially through social systems and health,” said Karnauskas, a CIRES Fellow and associate professor in CU’s Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. “We could see a future where results like this impact planning and resource allocation among health, law enforcement and criminal justice communities.”