This question, asked by the Independent in an article published Tuesday, is actually a little more nuanced than it first appears.
The author, Jonathan Leake, notes that scientists who study the subject believe that it “may be happening.”
Leake then goes on to note that there is not a lot of solid scientific evidence that confirms the theory — though the consensus among scientists and academics is that climate change is linked to changes in animal mating behavior.
Leake doesn’t really go on to explain what the science says, so you can see why some people were confused. (And honestly, the term “sexual partners” could have been more precise.)
This is actually a big deal because if the scientific community thinks there might be a link between climate change and animal mating behavior, then there may be other ways that climate change is impacting other parts of our lives, like health.
Many adult dating sites have been experiencing rapid growth as the climate changes. But if you want to know what scientists think, there’s a great answer on Reddit — it’s pretty interesting.
The most popular explanation for why climate change could be influencing human behavior is that it could be impacting the “scent.”
Leake notes that climate change could impact the “scent” of the animals themselves, which could in turn lead to changes in the behavior of other animals, like humans.
If we’ve noticed that some animal’s behavior has changed, that could have a spillover effect, meaning that humans might see changes in their own behavior, too.
Reddit users seem to agree — here are some of the best explanations for what climate change could be doing to human behavior:
Scent (the most popular)
“Climate change could be a result of the animal’s perception of temperature. Since temperature has a strong effect on smell, they could be able to’smell’ the change in temperature and adjust their scent accordingly. We would only notice that in other animals who are of the same species and can smell the same thing. However, if this was the only factor, it would make it extremely hard to distinguish the effects of temperature on animal behavior.”
“Some animals can only be attracted to certain pheromones. With more volatile compounds of the atmosphere and more extreme weather, the pheromones of those animals can change, and that would impact the animal’s mating preferences and thus its sexual choices.”
“The reason humans tend to live in large groups is because we need to mate with a lot of people (as in the species, not just one) to produce offspring. Our brains are evolved to prefer mates of the same species. With the climate change, our environment is changing, which could be making it harder for us to find mates, thus impacting our sexual decisions.”
“The smell of the world is changing due to global warming, which could have an effect on the behaviors of animals, including humans. A similar change could occur in humans due to changes in diet and other social influences.”
“Animals are adapting to the new climate, which is changing their sex, mating, and behavior. We are too.”
Behavior (a second popular one)
“A lot of the changes that we’ve seen in animals’ behavior are due to their survival needs. The survival of a species is defined as a need to be reproducing and protecting the species. With global warming, we’ve seen a change in the climate. The animals are adapting to that climate. With that, there’s been changes in their behavior.”
“If a species is a bit smaller or a bit larger, they have to mate with other species. If the environment is changing and their mating habits aren’t, they’re not able to survive or reproduce.”
“Humans are probably the most successful animal in history because of our adaptability to the environment.”
“In the wild, they probably have to hunt for food. I guess this could apply to humans as well. Maybe we’re all just trying to survive and it’s the human thing to do?”
“Animals are very closely connected to their environment. I think climate change is impacting our behavior as well.”
Biology (a third popular explanation)
“I think that climate change has an effect on human psychology. There is an increase in the amount of extreme weather and climate change affects the biology of the human. So with global warming, there is a biological response to the new climate which affects the way people behave and therefore the way they mate.”
“The way humans evolved as a species, it made more sense for them to get in bigger groups, to get more of the resources that they needed to survive, because they needed to survive, as a species.”
“It’s not just humans, but every species, and the change in their environment affects their physiology.”
“We evolved as a species to respond to our environment. I believe that the climate is changing, and it will change our behaviors.”
“Climate change may be causing changes in animal behavior by altering their biology, leading to changes in the environment.”
“The climate is changing, which could be impacting the way that different animals behave in the wild. The animal’s needs could be affecting their behavior, and we could be seeing a lot of species-wide adaptations to those changes in the environment.”
“With climate change, animals are having to adapt to a new and harsh environment, so as a result, their physiology may also be changing.”
“The fact that we’re talking about climate change and human behavior makes me believe that climate change is affecting human behavior, too.”
“Climate change could be the cause of behavioral changes in the animal kingdom. Animals, including humans, are adapting to a changing environment. Their behavior may change accordingly.”
“The environment is changing and they need to adapt to that change. In some species, they may start mating with the opposite sex or they may not reproduce at all.”
Is Climate Change Really Making People Have More Sex?
While the science is still in its early stages, some scientists believe that they could be on to something.
In a 2013 study, researchers at the University of Cambridge in England looked at data gathered between 1979 and 2006 and found that in Europe, the number of people having sex increased by 1.5 percent per decade.
This, combined with the fact that climate change is occurring, leads some scientists to believe that humans are having more sex due to environmental change.