The crime-fighting policy Republicans refuse to acknowledge
Although some of the more moderate Republicans acknowledge that climate change is a problem, much of the modern GOP and its supporters in right-wing media either pretend that climate change doesn’t exist or downplay its severity. Often, these are the same Republicans who campaign on being tough on crime. But journalist Liza Featherstone, in an article published by The New Republic on August 15, emphasizes that Republicans who worry about crime should also be worried about climate change — as heatwaves and crime often go hand in hand.
“Republicans love to blame Democrats for crime, and this election cycle is no exception,” Featherstone explains. “Conservative January 6 apologist and Staten Island Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis has blamed Democrats’ ‘pro criminal’ policies for ‘skyrocketing’ crime in New York City. Trump has been doing the same all over the country, characterizing our nation as a ‘cesspool of crime,’ our cities as ‘war zones, literal war zones,’ declaring that we have ‘blood, death, and suffering on a scale once unthinkable because of the Democrat Party’s effort to destroy and dismantle law enforcement all over the country.’”
Featherstone continues, “Stoking public fears over violent crime is central to the conservative pitch. The annual summer spike in violent crime in many cities makes it easier for Republicans to harp on the problem, as voters become understandably worried by shootings. But the right has been noticeably silent on one salient dimension of the crime problem: Heat waves worsen violence, and to be safer from violent crime, we need to address climate change.”
The Summer of 2022 has seen relentless heatwaves, from the United States to Europe. Typically, European cities don’t have as much violent crime as U.S. cities; the crimes that become worse in Madrid, Paris, Amsterdam or Rome during the summer months tend to be nonviolent crimes such as pickpocketing and shoplifting as opposed to armed robberies, carjacking, violent home invasions, drive-by shootings, etc. But U.S. cities, from Chicago to New Orleans to Philadelphia to Houston, have had plenty of violent crime to go with high temperatures this summer.
“Newer research has made the links to heat waves much clearer, suggesting that without intervention, global warming will lead to more murder,” Featherstone explains. “Research shows that on average, violent crime increases by over 5 percent on days hotter than 85 degrees Fahrenheit compared to days below that threshold. Studies mapping violent crime and weather in Los Angeles and Chicago show violence reliably rising with the temperature.”
Featherstone notes that the combination of violent crime and heatwaves is one that “like many other problems…. hits the poor hardest.”
“A study by University of Southern California researchers found that extreme heat was especially likely to exacerbate violence in low-income neighborhoods,” Featherstone reports. “Part of the reason for the correlation between heatwaves and crime may be that extreme heat affects our mental health, making us angrier and more aggressive. Although we don’t necessarily know all the reasons for this — one possibility is sleep loss — it makes intuitive sense, especially to those of us who get cranky when it’s too hot, and the research also suggests that the heat affects our serotonin in ways that make us more prone to impulsive behavior. Which is fine when that just means having a summer romance or ditching our work responsibilities to go to the beach. But the correlation with violence speaks to much more alarming effects.”
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