human rights and the environment

The Environment and Human Rights (7): The Effects of Climate Change on Crime Rates

heat wave

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The relationship between environmental problems and human rights is underexamined. This is deplorable, because the most important environmental problem, namely climate change, is likely to have an adverse effect on human rights in lots of different ways.

For example, there is some data supporting the hypothesis that higher temperatures lead to an increase in crime, probably in part because high temperatures cause higher levels of aggression:

[H]igher temperatures lead to more assault and … the rise in violent crimes rose more quickly than the analogous rise in non-violent property-crime, an indicator that there is a “pure aggression” component to the rise in violent crime. …

Note that all crime increases as temperatures rise from 0 F to about 50 F. It seems reasonable to hypothesize that a lot of this pattern comes from “logistical constraints”, eg. it’s hard to steal a car when it’s covered in snow. But above 60 F, only the violent crimes¬†continue¬†to go up: murder, rape, and assault. The comparison between murder and manslaughter is elegantly telling, as manslaughter should be less motivated by malicious intent. …

Between 2010 and 2099, climate change will cause an additional 30,000 murders, 200,000 cases of rape, 1.4 million aggravated assaults, 2.2 million simple assaults, 400,000 robberies, 3.2 million burglaries, 3.0 million cases of larceny, and 1.3 million cases of vehicle theft in the United States. (source)

More on human rights and the environment here.

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data, discrimination and hate, economics, education, equality, poverty, racism

Racism (16): Race and Crime

Banksy mural depicting a scene from the movie Pulp Fiction, starring Samuel L Jackson and Jonh Travolta

Banksy mural depicting a scene from the movie Pulp Fiction, starring Samuel L Jackson and Jonh Travolta

It’s well-known that African-Americans make up a disproportionate part of the U.S. prison population. Racists of course have an easy explanation for this, but what is the real explanation? Part of it is probably racial profiling and bias among jury members. Another part of the explanation can be poverty, unemployment and lower education, burdens from which African-Americans also suffer disproportionately. And although crime has many possible causes, there’s some evidence that at least some types of property crime go up during recessions. This indicates that there’s a link between crime and poverty, something which in turn can explain different arrest ratios across races given the different poverty rates across races.

Vincent and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson...

Screenshot from the film Pulp Fiction (1994), showing Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) in their well-known pose

There’s an interesting paper here studying the effects of both labor market conditions and asset poverty on the property crimes involvement of American males. It turns out that poverty and labor market outcomes account for as much as 90% of the arrest rates ratio. More on racism and crime. More Banksy.

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