In one of the SSC open threads it is posited that terrorism might result if climate change is really bad:
Climate change will be a disaster. Those worst affected will resort to war, terrorism, etc.. The average first world inhabitant will be drafted, and/or know people killed in terrorist incidents, or similar.
This seems implausible to me. The worst effected are going to be the ones without much power and economic resources; for this reason they won’t be able to threaten the first world militarily in conventional warfare. What about terrorism? If you ignore the “lone-wolf” style terrorism and look only at organized terror groups such as the IRA or the PLO, they always have the following:
1. A clearly defined group organized on ethnic or class lines which is supposedly being oppressed.
2. A clearly defined oppressor group.
3. A clearly defined goal.
Those most negatively impacted by climate change are not a clearly defined group, nor are those who caused the problem. It’s more fuzzy than notions of “class” in communism, where wage-earners and tenant farmers could easily be set against bosses and landlords across many countries. The goal is also unclear. The more likely scenario is that the very poorest will focus on surviving, begging for aid from the rich world, and, if they make war, will wage it against other very poor people they could conceivably beat. If there is a globalized ecoterror movement, it will be organized and led in the middle and high-income countries, much as the communist movement against the alleged evils of imperialist capitalism was led by middle-income Russia.
I think there’s a tendency to assume that if a group is screwed over by an action they will take violent action. Call it “pickle ree bias.” You see it in the failed predictions of crime and political instability due to the lopsided sex ratios in China, India, and South Korea. In that case you had the selfish decisions of one generation biting the next in the a**. I think part of this bias comes from the idea of karmic justice, people want to see the old farts who caused the problem suffering a crime wave they have only themselves to blame for. But for the low-status man who can’t find a wife, there’s no personal incentive to engage in crime; the police provide the same disincentive no matter the sex ratio.
You also see this in predictions of socialist revolution or racial conflict. Certainly both things are possible and indeed common in history, but the socialists or identarians who predict them often act as if they are inevitable. But even if the predictions of ever more horrid capitalism or ethnic oppression are correct, why should we assume the response should be violence rather than grovelling? Might the poor simply work harder to make ends meet, might the oppressed group work harder to quietly evade (rather than openly rebel against) the restrictions imposed by the oppressing group? In the case of emerging technologies such as genetic engineering, you hear that if the rich can afford them and the poor can’t, they will riot over the inequity. But if they aren’t rioting over current inequality, why would they riot over that?