Richard Potts, director of the Smithsonian Institution's Human Origins Program, looks at conflict from a deep time perspective, and recognizes that historically, climate instability has presented the greatest threat to human survival. Societies that can adapt sociologically, technologically or economically tend to prosper, while others - the Mayans, for example - decline.
But it would be simplistic to say climate causes the human conflict and subsequent decline, he wrote in an e-mail from Kenya. He was at a remote field site, writing on a solar-powered laptop by waning battery.
"The effects of climate instability always pass through the lens of how societies, their institutions, technologies, economic and political systems, are able to adjust to changing landscapes, resource uncertainty, population density, among other factors," he wrote.
Our modern day society may learn to adapt to the new norm of warmer climate and evade its worst effects. For instance, if conflict is caused by a weaker economy (mediated by climate), some technological change could help us evade the effects.