A new book offers a dark picture of humanity’s future.

“My belief is that we will see a renaissance of violent conflict in the 21st century, and that many of these conflicts will spring from climate change.”

That’s what Harald Welzer, author of Climate Wars: Why People Will Be Killed in the 21st Century, told me in a recent interview. A professor at the University of Flensburg in Germany, Welzer studies the cultural and political implications of climate change. His book, first published in 2012, was rereleased in paperback in October.

After a new report by the Environmental Justice Foundation warning that climate change is likely to cause the largest refugee crisis in human history, I reached out to Welzer to discuss his book, which is a foreboding look at humanity’s future in a world shaped, increasingly, by climate change.

Twentieth-century wars were fought over land, religion, and economics. But Welzer argues that the wars of the 21st century will be fought over something quite different: climate change, and the shortages of water and food that will come from it.

“Ideology will always be a surface-level justification for conflict,” he told me. “But if you look deeply at the source of future conflicts, I think you’ll see a basic resource conflict at the bottom of it all.”

Our full conversation, lightly edited for clarity, follows.


The links between climate and conflict

Sean Illing

The subtitle of your book is “Why People Will Be Killed in the 21st Century.” That will sound alarmist to some. What’s your thesis?

Harald Welzer

The thesis is very simple: that you always have a higher potential for violent conflict when the survival conditions of groups of people are threatened. This is a very basic principle. My original question was: if all these scientists and climate researchers are Read More Here