Warmer temperatures have long been associated with higher crime rates. So, what might the effect of global warming be? Not good, according to a study by Matthew Ranson of the research firm Abt Associates.
Ronson matched up historical crime rates and weather data, and concluded that if temperatures rise as predicted, the effect could be alarming. Between 2010 and 2099, we might see 22,000 additional murders, 180,000 more cases of rape, 1.2 million aggravated assaults, 2.3 million simple assaults, 260,000 robberies, and 1.3 million burglaries.
The analysis, published in the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, is based on 30 years of data from all 2,997 U.S. counties. The temperature prediction–a five-degree Fahrenheit increase by century’s end–is from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Aside from the damage to people’s lives, Ronson says heightened crime rates would also have an economic cost. Based on previous per crime estimates, he forecasts additional costs of $38 billion to $115 billion.
Of course, it’s a stretch to predict anything for 2099 so definitely, and it’s unlikely that future crime patterns will respond to weather in the same exact way as they had in the past. But Ronson’s point is that climate change could affect us in multiple ways that we don’t often think about, and many of them won’t be pleasant.