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Surprising Science

Crime Waves Will Follow the Heat Waves of Climate Change

The nation's leading criminologist warns that rising global temperature seed the ground for crime. Threats to livelyhood and large-scale migrations help create deprivation and discrimination. 

What’s the Latest Development?

Based on a study of strains and stresses that create the conditions for crime, the respected criminologist Robert Agnew has warned that crime waves will follow the heat waves of climate change, along with economic deprivation, discrimination, criminal victimization, harsh or erratic discipline, child abuse and neglect. Agnew is a professor of sociology at Emory, whose research on general strain theory has become one of the leading explanations for crime. “He is among the most frequently cited criminologists in the world, and was recently elected president of the American Society of Criminologists.”

What’s the Big Idea?

In purely sociological terms, Agnew believes the effects of climate change will be one of the motivating forces behind our current century. “He lists strains such as increased temperatures, heat waves, natural disasters, serious threats to livelihood (thinking farming, herding, fishing), forced migrations on a massive scale and social conflicts arising as nations and groups compete for increasingly scarce food, fresh water and fuel.” Concurrent with the rise of megacities in the third world, like Bangladesh, Agnew worries that crime will come to affect much larger populations. 

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