6 March 2013 — The interaction between climate change – including heat waves and floods in Australia, food prices and politics is a hidden “stressor” that helped to fuel the Arab revolutions, a US scholar says.

Princeton University’s Anne-Marie Slaughter says, in her introduction to a collection of essays, The Arab Spring and Climate Change, that crime shows rely on the concept of a “stressor”, writes Thomas Friedman in The New York Times.

A stressor is “a sudden change in circumstances or environment that interacts with a complicated psychological profile in a way that leads a previously quiescent person to become violent”.

“The stressor is never the only explanation for the crime, but it is inevitably an important factor in a complex set of variables that lead to a disaster,” Mr Friedman reports.

The Arab Spring and Climate Change doesn’t claim that climate change caused the recent wave of Arab revolutions, but, taken together, the essays make a strong case that the interplay between climate change, food prices and politics is a hidden stressor that helped to fuel the revolutions and will continue to make consolidating them into stable democracies much more difficult.

“Jointly produced by the Center for American Progress, the Stimson Center and the Center for Climate and Security, the collection of essays opens with the Oxford University geographer Troy Sternberg, who demonstrates how in 2010-11, in tandem with the Arab awakenings, ‘a once-in-a-century winter drought in China’ – combined, at the same time, with record-breaking heat waves or floods in other key wheat-growing countries (Ukraine, Russia, Canada and Australia) – ‘contributed to global wheat shortages and skyrocketing bread prices’ in wheat-importing states, most of which are in the Arab world.”

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