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Climate craziness of the week: global warming “leads to more violence”

Watts Up With That?
March 22, 2010

UPDATE: WUWT commenter P Wilson points out one single map that refutes this entire theory, see below the “read more” at the end of the post. – Anthony 

To add to the Numberwatch big list of things supposedly caused by global warming [1], there’s now an oddball “irrefutable” (their words) story circulating around the net since Friday from Craig Anderson [2], a psychologist from Iowa State university known for video game violence studies, shown at left. 

A Google News search reveals a number of news outlets picking this story up. The source for all these stories seems to be this one article in Newswise: 

Researchers Present Study on How Global Climate Change Affects Violence [3] 

In that article, they cite it as: 

Released: 3/19/2010 1:00 PM EDT
Source: Iowa State University [4] 

Problem is when you go to Iowa State to look for the source of the press release, it can’t be found. For example look at the Iowa State News site at: http://www.news.iastate.edu/ [5] it is not listed on the page, nor if you look at the release page http://www.news.iastate.edu/releases/ [6] page. Or do a search using their search engine [7]

On that search I found a vignette [8] done apparently on Feb 26th, but no official Iowa State news release. Here’s the meat of the vignette, which looks like it was written for an internal newsletter: 

He found that increases in average annual temperature or global warming, has an increasing effect on murders and assaults in this country, even after controlling for a variety of other factors. 

“For every one degree increase in average temperature, we can expect an increase of 4.58 additional murders and assault cases per every 100,000 people,” Anderson said. 

“There are obviously other factors involved,” he continued. “I would never claim that temperature alone would be the main factor that causes violent crime to be higher. However, there is now considerable evidence from a variety of sources that suggesting that high temperature is one cause that contributes to violent behavior, including violent criminal activity.” 

Note to Anderson: correlation is not causation 

Iowa State’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences news page [9] also does not list the story about Anderson’s claims on global warming driving increased violence. I did find a mention that Anderson has a paper in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science [10] but the latest 2010 edition is apparently not online. 

It appears Anderson may have done his own press release, because I certainly haven’t been able to find any evidence that Iowa State official made any sort of news release of Friday March 19th, as cited by the “ground zero” Newswise story [3]

It is odd that Iowa State doesn’t have any official release. Maybe something will turn up Monday at the Iowa State News site. 

In the meantime, his last offical news release on video games and violence gets a thorough drubbing from Techdirt:
=================================== 

Long Time Video Game Critic Claims Conclusive Evidence That Violent Video Games Cause Aggression; Conclusive Except That It Isn’t… [11] 

from the except-for-the-details dept 

excerpt: 

So it seems a bit ridiculous for anyone — especially a professor who has been solidly on one side of the debate for many years, to stand up and claim that he has conclusively shown that violent video games make kids more “aggressive” [12] (found via Slashdot [13]). First, note the choice of words: not violent, but aggressive. Iowa State psychology professor Craig Anderson, who has already staked his reputation on saying that violent video games have a negative impact on kids, isn’t about to back down. He claims that he went through 130 studies and concluded that the support is unequivocal: 

“We can now say with utmost confidence that regardless of research method — that is experimental, correlational, or longitudinal — and regardless of the cultures tested in this study [East and West], you get the same effects,” said Anderson, who is also director of Iowa State’s Center for the Study of Violence. “And the effects are that exposure to violent video games increases the likelihood of aggressive behavior in both short-term and long-term contexts. Such exposure also increases aggressive thinking and aggressive affect, and decreases prosocial behavior.”  

Of course, reality is a bit more fuzzy. The same journal that is publishing Anderson’s new paper is also publishing a commentary from other researchers who disagree [14] and suggest that Anderson has a pretty bad selection bias problem. But the biggest problem — as we noted above, is that all of these “violent video games are bad” studies seem to show incredibly weak effects that don’t appear to be significant in any meaningful way. As the commentary shows: 

Psychology, too often, has lost its ability to put the weak (if any) effects found for VVGs on aggression into a proper perspective. In doing so, it does more to misinform than inform public debates on this issue.  

[15]

Meanwhile, just last year, two Harvard Medical School professors also went through a whole bunch of different studies on violent video games and came to the exact opposite conclusions [16] as Anderson did. It found little actual evidence to support Anderson’s claims, and found significant problems with research suggesting there was a serious link between violent video games and actual violence. Among that report’s findings: 

======================================
Well I’ll give him some credit, in a news release I could find on his video game-violence conclusion [12], at least he didn’t use the word “robust”. Though when your link between violence and global warming is “irrefutable [3]” why use a lesser word?

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention. Dr. Anderson has apparently embraced [17] a whole new type of science called “Human Thermodynamics”. Here’s an encyclopedia cover at the  EoHT Wiki [18] of which he is a member: 

[19] 

There’s even has an equation to quantify the human thermodynamic effect, nicely presented in a non-violent manner. From the EoHT Wiki [18] main page: 

 

Tattoo (or inking) of the Clausius inequality [20]; photo by Marco Fantoni (March, 2008); an example of art thermodynamics [21]. In the photo, showing a hand holding both a new and burnt match, “the hand represents the capacity of the human [22] mind [23] to analyze and understand natural phenomena [such as] the power [24] and imperative [25] of irreversibility [26].” [3] 

He found that increases in average annual temperature or global warming, has an increasing effect on murders and assaults in this country, even after controlling for a variety of other factors. 

“For every one degree increase in average temperature, we can expect an increase of 4.58 additional murders and assault cases per every 100,000 people,” Anderson said. 

“There are obviously other factors involved,” he continued. “I would never claim that temperature alone would be the main factor that causes violent crime to be higher. However, there is now considerable evidence from a variety of sources that suggesting that high temperature is one cause that contributes to violent behavior, including violent criminal activity.” 


UPDATE: WUWT commenter P Wilson shares this map circa 2009 and asks: 

What does it show? Rather than Austrialia havin inexorable crime rate, the highest crime rates seem to be in relatively cool countries. 

WUWT? 

[27] Source: Maps of the World click for original source 

Indeed, according to the map, the top ten countries for crime are: 

1. Iceland 

2. Sweden 

3. New Zealand 

4. Grenada 

5. Norway 

6. England and Wales 

7. Denmark 

8. Finland 

9. Scotland 

10. Canada 

With the exception of Grenada, all are cooler climate countries. So much for Dr. Anderson’s theory of heat in the form of AGW = crime. 

Maybe that’s why Iowa State never published a press release, they were just too embarrassed to do so.