Adano, W.R., T. Dietz, K. Witsenburg, and F. Zaal. 2012. Climate change, violent conflict and local institutions in Kenya’s drylands. Journal of Peace Research 49 (1): 65-80.

Many regions that are endowed with scarce natural resources such as arable land and water, and which are remote from a central government, suffer from violence and ethnic strife. A number of studies have looked at the convergence of economic, political and ecological marginality in several African countries. However, there is limited empirical study on the role of violence in pastoral livelihoods across ecological and geographical locations. Yet, case studies focusing on livelihood and poverty issues could inform us about violent behaviour as collective action or as individual decisions, and to what extent such decisions are informed or explained by specific climatic conditions. Several case studies point out that violence is indeed an enacted behaviour, rooted in culture and an accepted form of interaction. This article critically discusses the relevance of geographical and climatic parameters in explaining the connection between poverty and violent conflicts in Kenya’s pastoral areas. These issues are considered vis-à-vis the role institutional arrangements play in preventing violent conflict over natural resources from occurring or getting out of hand. The article uses long-term historical data, archival information and a number of fieldwork sources. The results indicate that the context of violence does not deny its agency in explanation of conflicts, but the institutional set-up may ultimately explain the occurrence of the resource curse.


Barnett, J. 2003. Security and climate change. Global Environmental Change 13 (1): 7-17.

Despite it being the most studied and arguably most profound of global environmental change problems, there is relatively little research that explores climate change as a security issue. This paper systematically explores the range of possible connections between climate change and security, including national security considerations, human security concerns, military roles, and a discussion of the widely held assumption that climate change may trigger violent conflict. The paper explains the ways in which climate change is a security issue. It includes in its discussion issues to do with both mitigation and adaptation of climate change.


Barnett, J. and W. N. Adger. 2007. Climate change, human security and violent conflict. Political Geography 26 (6): 639-655.

Climate change is increasingly [being] called a ‘security’ problem, and there has been speculation that climate change may increase the risk of violent conflict. This paper integrates three disparate but well-founded bodies of research – on the vulnerability of local places and social groups to climate change, on livelihoods and violent conflict, and the role of the state in development and peacemaking, to offer new insights into the relationships between climate change, human security, and violent conflict. It explains that climate change increasingly undermines human security in the present day, and will increasingly do so in the future, by reducing access to, and the quality of, natural resources that are important to sustain livelihoods. Climate change is also likely to undermine the capacity of states to provide the opportunities and services that help people to sustain their livelihoods. We argue that in certain circumstances these direct and indirect impacts of climate change on human security may in turn increase the risk of violent conflict. The paper then outlines the broad contours of a research programme to guide empirical investigations into the risks climate change poses to human security and peace.


Benjaminsen, T.A., K. Alinon, H. Buhaug, J.T. Buseth. 2012. Does climate change drive land-use conflicts in the Sahel? The Case of the Tuareg Rebellion in Northern Mali. Journal of Peace Research 49 (1): 97-111.

While climate change scenarios for the Sahel vary and are uncertain, the most popularized prediction says there will progressively be drier conditions with more erratic rainfall. According to some, an increase in violent conflicts over scarce resources should also be expected. This article investigates the climate–conflict nexus in detail, focusing on a distinct area at the heart of the Sahel, the inland delta of the Niger river in the Mopti region of Mali. Two complementary analytical approaches are applied. The first consists of collection and analysis of court data on land-use conflicts, 1992–2009, from the regional Court of Appeal in Mopti. A comparison of the conflict data with statistics on contemporaneous climatic conditions gives little substance to claims that climate variability is an important driver of these conflicts. Second, we carried out a qualitative analysis of one of the many land-use conflicts in the region. Again, we find that factors other than those directly related to environmental conditions and resource scarcity dominate as plausible explanations of the violent conflict. We argue that three structural factors are the main drivers behind these conflicts: agricultural encroachment that obstructed the mobility of herders and livestock, opportunistic behavior of rural actors as a consequence of an increasing political vacuum, and corruption and rent seeking among government officials.


Bergholt, D. 2012. Climate-related natural disasters, economic growth, and armed civil conflict. Journal of Peace Research 49 (1): 147-162.

Global warming is expected to make the climate warmer, wetter, and wilder. It is predicted that such climate change will increase the severity and frequency of climate- related disasters like flash floods, surges, cyclones, and severe storms. This article uses econometric methods to study the consequences of climate-induced natural disasters on economic growth, and how these disasters are linked to the onset of armed civil conflict either directly or via their impact on economic growth. The results show that climate-related natural disasters have a negative effect on growth and that the impact is considerable. The analysis of conflict onset shows that climate-related natural disasters do not increase the risk of armed conflict. This is also true when we instrument the change in GDP growth by climatic disasters. The result is robust to inclusion of country and time fixed effects, different estimation techniques, and various operationalization of the disasters measure, as well as for conflict incidence and war onset. These findings have two major implications: if climate change increases the frequency or makes weather-related natural disasters more severe, it is an economic concern for countries susceptible to these types of hazards. However, our results suggest – based on historical data – that more frequent and severe climate-related disasters will not lead to more armed conflicts through their effects on GDP growth.


Butler, C.K. and S. Gates. 2012. African range wars; Climate, conflict, and property rights. Journal of Peace Research 49 (1): 23-34.

This article examines the effect of climate change on a type of armed conflict that pits pastoralists (cattle herders) against each other (range wars). Such conflicts are typically fought over water rights and/or grazing rights to unfenced/unowned land. The state is rarely involved directly. The rangeland of East Africa is a region particularly vulnerable to drought and livestock diseases associated with climate change. To analyze the possible effects of climate change on pastoral conflict, we focus our analysis on changes in resource availability, contrasting cases of abundance and scarcity. The role of resources is further contextualized by competing notions of property rights, and the role of the state in defining property and associated rights. We employ a contest success function (CSF) game-theoretic model to analyze the logic of range wars. This CSF approach emphasizes the low-level, non-binary nature of raiding behavior between pastoralist groups over limited natural resources. A central contribution of this approach is that the logic of raiding behavior implies a positive relationship between resources and conflict. This positive relationship is supported by several studies of the rangeland of East Africa, but is generally dismissed by the literature on the ‘resource curse’. This relationship is contingent on other factors examined in the model, producing the following results. First, the level of property rights protection provided by the state generally reduces conflict between pastoralist groups. Second, if property rights protection is provided in a biased manner, then conflict between pastoralist groups increases. Third, severe resource asymmetries between two pastoralist groups will induce the poorer group to become bandits (focusing their efforts on raiding and not producing), while the richer group raids in retaliation.


De Stefano, L., J. Duncan, S. Dinar, K. Stahl, K.M. Strzepek, and A.T. Wolf. 2012. Climate change and the institutional resilience of international river basins. Journal of Peace Research 49 (1): 193-209.

In the existing 276 international river basins, the increase in water variability projected by most climate change scenarios may present serious challenges to riparian states. This research maps the institutional resilience to water variability in transboundary basins and combines it with both historic and projected variability regimes, with the objective of identifying areas at potential risk of future hydropolitical tension. To do so, it combs existing international treaties for sources of institutional resilience and considers the coefficient of variation of runoff as a measure of past and future water variability. The study finds significant gaps in both the number of people and area covered by institutional stipulations to deal with variability in South America and Asia. At present, high potential risk for hydropolitical tensions associated with water variability is identified in 24 transboundary basins and seems to be concentrated mainly in northern and sub-Saharan Africa. By 2050, areas at greatest potential risk are more spatially dispersed and can be found in 61 international basins, and some of the potentially large impacts of climate change are projected to occur away from those areas currently under scrutiny. Understanding when and where to target capacity-building in transboundary river basins for greater resilience to change is critical. This study represents a step toward facilitating these efforts and informing further qualitative and quantitative research into the relationship between climate change, hydrological variability regimes, and institutional capacity for accommodating variability.


Devlin, C. and C.S. Hendrix. 2014. Trends and triggers redux: Climate change, rainfall, and interstate conflict. Political Geography (in press).

Given freshwater is crucial to sustaining life and forecasted to decline in relative abundance under most climate change scenarios, there is concern changing precipitation patterns will be a cause of future interstate conflict. In theorizing the impact of climate change for interstate conflict, we distinguish between trends (long- term means) that may affect the baseline probability of conflict, and triggers (short-term deviations) that may affect the probability of conflict in the short run. We jointly model the effects of mean precipitation scarcity and variability (trends) and year-to-year changes in precipitation (triggers) on militarized interstate disputes between states. We find higher long-run variability in precipitation and lower mean levels of precipitation in dyads are associated with the outbreak of militarized interstate disputes (MIDs). Contra neo-Malthusian expectations, however, we find joint precipitation scarcity – defined as both countries experiencing below mean rainfall in the same year – has a conflict- dampening effect. These findings push the literature in a direction that more closely aligns our modeling of human impacts with our understanding of the physical impacts of climate change.


Fjelde, H. and N. von Uexkull. 2012. Climate triggers: Rainfall anomalies, vulnerability and communal conflict in Sub Saharan Africa. Political Geography 31 (7): 444-453.

The mounting evidence for climate change has put the security implications of increased climate variability high on the agenda of policymakers. However, several years of research have produced no consensus regarding whether climate variability increases the risk of armed conflict. Many have suggested that instead of outright civil war, climate variability is likely to heighten the risk of communal conflict. In particular, erratic rainfall, which reduces the availability of water and arable land, could create incentives for violent attacks against other communities to secure access to scarce resources. Yet, whether groups resort to violence in the face of environmentally induced hardship is likely to depend on the availability of alternative coping mechanisms, for example through market transfers or state accommodation. This suggests that the effect of rainfall anomalies on communal conflict will be stronger in the presence of economic and political marginalization. We evaluate these arguments statistically, utilizing a disaggregated dataset combining rainfall data with geo-referenced events data on the occurrence of communal conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa between 1990 and 2008. Our results suggest that large negative deviations in rainfall from the historical norm are associated with a higher risk of communal conflict. There is some evidence that the effect of rainfall shortages on the risk of communal conflict is amplified in regions inhabited by politically excluded ethno-political groups.


Gartzke, E. 2012. Could climate change precipitate peace? Journal of Peace Research 49 (1): 177-192.

Growing interest in the social consequences of climate change has fueled speculation that global warming could lead to an increase in various forms of political violence. This article examines the effects of climate change on international conflict subsequent to the onset of European industrialization. Surprisingly, analysis at the system level suggests that global warming is associated with a reduction in interstate conflict. This naive relationship is suspect, however, as the increased consumption of carbon-based fuels is itself associated with changing patterns of politics and prosperity. In particular, economic development has been viewed as a cause of both climate change and interstate peace. Incorporating measures of development, democracy, cross-border trade, and international institutions reveals that systemic trends toward peace are actually best accounted for by the increase in average international income. The results imply that climate change, which poses a number of critical challenges for citizens and policymakers, need not be characterized as fundamentally a security issue, though climate change may have important security implications on the periphery of world politics. The analysis here also suggests that efforts to curb climate change should pay particular attention to encouraging clean development among middle-income states, as these countries are the most conflict prone. Ironically, stagnating economic development in middle-income states caused by efforts to combat climate change could actually realize fears of climate-induced warfare.


Gemenne, F., J. Barnett, W.N. Adger, and G.D. Dabelko. 2014. Climate and security: evidence, emerging risks, and a new agenda. Climatic Change 123 (1): 1-9.

There are diverse linkages between climate change and security including risks of conflict, national security concerns, critical national infrastructure, geo-political rivalries and threats to human security. We review analysis of these domains from primary research and from policy prescriptive and advocacy sources. We conclude that much analysis over-emphasises deterministic mechanisms between climate change and security. Yet the climate-security nexus is more complex than it appears and requires attention from across the social sciences. We review the robustness of present social sciences analysis in assessing the causes and consequences of climate change on human security, and identify new areas of research. These new areas include the need to analyse the absence of conflict in the face of climate risks and the need to expand the range of issues accounted for in analysis of climate and security including the impacts of mitigation response on domains of security. We argue for the necessity of robust theories that explain causality and associations, and the need to include theories of asymmetric power relations in explaining security dimensions. We also highlight the dilemmas of how observations and historical analysis of climate and security dimensions may be limited as the climate changes in ways that present regions with unprecedented climate risks.


Gizelis, T. and A.E. Wooden. 2010. Water resource, institutions, & intrastate conflict. Political Geography 29 (8): 444-453.

Although linkages between water scarcity and conflict have received a great deal of attention, both in qualitative case studies as well as quantitative studies, the relationship remains unclear since the literature has generally not considered the effectiveness of governance. We distinguish between direct effects and indirect effects linking water resource scarcity and conflict by systematically examining how intervening factors, such as political institutions, might influence the impact of water scarcity on the probability of conflict. We find support for our hypotheses postulating both direct and indirect relationships between water scarcity, governance, and conflict.

Gleditsch, N.P. 2012. Whither the weather? Climate change and conflict. Journal of Peace Research 49 (1): 3-9.

Until recently, most writings on the relationship between climate change and security were highly speculative. The IPCC assessment reports to date offer little if any guidance on this issue and occasionally pay excessive attention to questionable sources. The articles published in this special issue form the largest collection of peer-reviewed writings on the topic to date. The number of such studies remains small compared to those that make up the natural science base of the climate issue, and there is some confusion whether it is the effect of ‘climate’ or ‘weather’ that is being tested. The results of the studies vary, and firm conclusions cannot always be drawn. Nevertheless, research in this area has made considerable progress. More attention is being paid to the specific causal mechanisms linking climate change to conflict, such as changes in rainfall and temperature, natural disasters, and economic growth. Systematic climate data are used in most of the articles and climate projections in some. Several studies are going beyond state-based conflict to look at possible implications for other kinds of violence, such as intercommunal conflict. Overall, the research reported here offers only limited support for viewing climate change as an important influence on armed conflict. However, framing the climate issue as a security problem could possibly influence the perceptions of the actors and contribute to a self-fulfilling prophecy.


Gleick, P.H. 2014. Water, Drought, Climate Change, and Conflict in Syria. Weather, Climate, and Society 6 (3): 331-340.

The devastating civil war that began in Syria in March 2011 is the result of complex interrelated factors. The focus of the conflict is regime change, but the triggers include a broad set of religious and sociopolitical factors, the erosion of the economic health of the country, a wave of political reform sweeping over the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Levant region, and challenges associated with climate variability and change and the availability and use of freshwater. As described here, water and climatic conditions have played a direct role in the deterioration of Syria’s economic conditions. There is a long history of conflicts over water in these regions because of the natural water scarcity, the early development of irrigated agriculture, and complex religious and ethnic diversity. In recent years, there has been an increase in incidences of water- related violence around the world at the subnational level attributable to the role that water plays in development disputes and economic activities. Because conflicts are rarely, if ever, attributable to single causes, conflict analysis and concomitant efforts at reducing the risks of conflict must consider a multitude of complex relationships and contributing factors. This paper assesses the complicated connections between water and conflict in Syria, looks more broadly at future climate-related risks for water systems, and offers some water management strategies for reducing those risks.


Hendrix, C.S. and I. Salehyan. 2012. Climate change, rainfall, and social conflict in Africa. Journal of Peace Research 49 (1): 35-50.

Much of the debate over the security implications of climate change revolves around whether changing weather patterns will lead to future conflict. This article addresses whether deviations from normal rainfall patterns affect the propensity for individuals and groups to engage in disruptive activities such as demonstrations, riots, strikes, communal conflict, and anti-government violence. In contrast to much of the environmental security literature, it uses a much broader definition of conflict that includes, but is not limited to, organized rebellion. Using a new database of over 6,000 instances of social conflict over 20 years – the Social Conflict in Africa Database (SCAD) – it examines the effect of deviations from normal rainfall patterns on various types of conflict. The results indicate that rainfall variability has a significant effect on both large- scale and smaller-scale instances of political conflict. Rainfall correlates with civil war and insurgency, although wetter years are more likely to suffer from violent events. Extreme deviations in rainfall – particularly dry and wet years – are associated positively with all types of political conflict, though the relationship is strongest with respect to violent events, which are more responsive to abundant than scarce rainfall. By looking at a broader spectrum of social conflict, rather than limiting the analysis to civil war, we demonstrate a robust relationship between environmental shocks and unrest.


Hsaing, S. and M. Burke. 2014, Climate, conflict, and social stability: what does the evidence say? Climatic Change 123 (1): 39-55.

Are violent conflict and socio-political stability associated with changes in climatological variables? We examine 50 rigorous quantitative studies on this question and find consistent support for a causal association between climatological changes and various conflict outcomes, at spatial scales ranging from individual buildings to the entire globe and at temporal scales ranging from an anomalous hour to an anomalous millennium. Multiple mechanisms that could explain this association have been proposed and are sometimes supported by findings, but the literature is currently unable to decisively exclude any proposed pathway. Several mechanisms likely contribute to the outcomes that we observe.


Koubi, V., G. Spilker, T. Bohmelt, and T. Bernauer. 2014. Do natural resources matter for interstate and intrastate armed conflict? Journal of Peace Research 51 (2): 227-243.

This article reviews the existing theoretical arguments and empirical findings linking renewable and non-renewable natural resources to the onset, intensity, and duration of intrastate as well as interstate armed conflict. Renewable resources are supposedly connected to conflict via scarcity, while non-renewable resources are hypothesized to lead to conflict via resource abundance. Based upon our analysis of these two streams in the literature, it turns out that the empirical support for the resource scarcity argument is rather weak. However, the authors obtain some evidence that resource abundance is likely to be associated with conflict. The article concludes that further research should generate improved data on low-intensity forms of conflict as well as resource scarcity and abundance at subnational and international levels, and use more homogenous empirical designs to analyze these data. Such analyses should pay particular attention to interactive effects and endogeneity issues in the resource– conflict relationship.


Koubi, V., T. Bernauer, A Kalbhenn, and G. Spilker. 2012. Climate variability, economic growth, and civil conflict. Journal of Peace Research 49 (1): 113-127.

Despite many claims by high-ranking policymakers and some scientists that climate change breeds violent conflict, the existing empirical literature has so far not been able to identify a systematic, causal relationship of this kind. This may either reflect de facto absence of such a relationship, or it may be the consequence of theoretical and methodological limitations of existing work. In this article we revisit the climate–conflict hypothesis along two lines. First, we concentrate on indirect effects of climatic conditions on conflict, whereas most of the existing literature focuses on direct effects. Specifically, we examine the causal pathway linking climatic conditions to economic growth and to armed conflict, and argue that the growth–conflict part of this pathway is contingent on the political system. Second, we employ a measure of climatic variability that has advantages over those used in the existing literature because it can presumably take into account the adaptation of production to persistent climatic changes. For the empirical analysis we use a global dataset for 1980–2004 and design the testing strategy tightly in line with our theory. Our empirical analysis does not produce evidence for the claim that climate variability affects economic growth. However, we find some, albeit weak, support for the hypothesis that non-democratic countries are more likely to experience civil conflict when economic conditions deteriorate.


McDonald, M. 2013. Discourses of climate security. Political Geography 33: 42-51.

Global climate change has been increasingly defined as a security threat by a range of political actors and analysts. Yet as the range of voices articulating the need to conceive and approach climate change as a security issue has expanded, so too has the range of ways in which this link has been conceptualized. This article systematically maps different approaches to the relationship between climate change and security as climate security discourses, divided here between national, human, international and ecological security discourses. In exploring the contours of each, the articles asks how the referent object of security is conceptualised (whose security is at stake?); who are conceived as key agents of security (who is responsible for/able to respond to the threat?); how is the nature of the threat defined; and what responses are suggested for dealing with that threat? Systematically mapping these alternative discourses potentially provides a useful taxonomy of the climate change–security relationship in practice. But more importantly, it serves to illustrate how particular responses to climate change (and the actors articulating them) are enabled or constrained by the ways in which the relationship between security and climate change is understood. The article concludes by suggesting that the most powerful discourses of climate security are unlikely to inform a progressive or effective response to global climate change.


Meier, P., D. Bond, and J. Bond. Environmental influences on pastoral conflict in the Horn of Africa. Political Geography 26 (6): 716-735.

This paper seeks to discern the influence of environmental variability on pastoral conflict in the Horn of Africa. While the literature on environmental factors in civil wars is rich in empirical research and explanatory power, the dearth of data is an obstacle to the study of other important forms of violence such as pastoral conflict. If environmental factors are associated with pastoral conflict then what are they, and can they be used as early warning indicators to prevent its escalation or mitigate its effects? These questions are increasingly important given the expected impact of climate change on pastoral societies worldwide. To help answer these questions we draw on data collected by field monitors with the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development’s (IGAD) Conflict Early Warning and Response Network (CEWARN) and environmental data for the same region. Field monitors collect incident and situation reports from more than two dozen areas of reporting along the borders of Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda collectively known at the Karamoja Cluster. We compare these conflict data with three environmental indicators: precipitation, vegetation and forage. Preliminary statistical analyses of the data suggest that aggravating behavior, along with a reduction in peace initiatives and reciprocal exchanges, is associated with an escalation in pastoral conflict, particularly when coupled with an increase in vegetation that may provide cover for organized raids. We therefore recommend that conflict early warning systems integrate both response options and salient environmental indicators into their analyses to better deal with the complexity of the relationships between pastoral conflict and the environment in an era of climate change.


Nardulli, P.F., B. Peyton, and J. Bajjalieh. 2013. Climate change and civil unrest: The impact of rapid onset disasters. Journal of Conflict Resolution (In press).

This article examines the destabilizing impact of rapid-onset, climate-related disasters. It uses a sample of storms and floods in conjunction with two intensity measures of civil unrest to examine two perspectives on human reactions to disasters (conflictual, cooperative). It also uses insights from the contentious politics literature to understand how emotions posited by the conflictual perspective are transformed into destabilizing acts. While the data show that mean levels of unrest are higher in the wake of disasters, the means poorly reflect the data: the vast majority of episodes do not show higher levels of unrest. Moreover, even when higher levels of unrest emerge, they are not a simple reflection of disaster’s human impact; this underscores the importance of the transformational process. Thus, a preliminary model of political violence is investigated; it employs impact, process and institutional variables and it explains three-quarters of the variance in the intensity of violence.


Omolo, N.A. 2010. Gender and climate change-induced conflict in pastoral communities: case study of Turkana in northwestern Kenya. African Journal of Conflict Resolution: Environment and Conflict 10 (2): 81-102.

Climate change-induced conflict is a major global threat to human security and the environment. It has been projected that there is going to be an increase in climate changes resulting in increased droughts and floods in northern Kenya. Climate change impacts will be differently distributed among different regions, ages, income groups, occupations and gender. People living in poverty are more vulnerable to environmental changes. In relation to these concerns, this article discusses the following issues : climate change, pastoralism and conflicts, gender issues in Turkana, and the future of pastoralism in relation to changing climate conditions. Specifically, the first section looks at the impacts of climate change on pastoralism and the livelihoods of pastoralists, and at the types of climate change-induced conflicts in Turkana. The next section focuses on the impact of climate change-induced conflict on women and men’s livelihoods, including discussion of the roles and participation in decision making. Finally, the future of pastoralism in relation to changing climate is discussed. The focus will be on scenarios of the past and future projections of rainfall patterns in Turkana, the future of pastoralism and the possibility of climate-induced conflicts in the future.


Raleigh, C. and D. Kniveton. 2012. Come rain or shine: An analysis of conflict variability in East Africa. Journal of Peace Research 49 (1): 51-64.

Previous research on environment and security has contested the existence, nature and significance of a climate driver of conflict. In this study, we have focused on small-scale conflict over East Africa where the link between resource availability and conflict is assumed to be more immediate and direct. Using the parameter of rainfall variability to explore the marginal influence of the climate on conflict, the article shows that in locations that experience rebel or communal conflict events, the frequency of these events increases in periods of extreme rainfall variation, irrespective of the sign of the rainfall change. Further, these results lend support to both a ‘zero-sum’ narrative, where conflicting groups use force and violence to compete for ever-scarcer resources, and an ‘abundance’ narrative, where resources spur rent-seeking/wealth-seeking and recruitment of people to participate in violence. Within the context of current uncertainty regarding the future direction of rainfall change over much of Africa, these results imply that small-scale conflict is likely to be exacerbated with increases in rainfall variability if the mean climate remains largely unchanged; preferentially higher rates of rebel conflict will be exhibited in anomalously dry conditions, while higher rates of communal conflict are expected in increasingly anomalous wet conditions.


Raleigh, C. and H. Urdal. 2007. Climate change, environmental degradation and armed conflict. Political Geography 26 (6): 674-694.

Climate change is expected to bring about major change in freshwater availability, the productive capacity of soils, and in patterns of human settlement. However, considerable uncertainties exist with regard to the extent and geographical distribution of these changes. Predicting scenarios for how climate-related environmental change may influence human societies and political systems necessarily involves an even higher degree of uncertainty. The direst predictions about the impacts of global warming warn about greatly increased risks of violent conflict over increasingly scarce resources such as freshwater and arable land. We argue that our best guess about the future has to be based on our knowledge about the relationship between demography, environment and violent conflict in the past. Previous rigorous studies in the field have mostly focused on national-level aggregates. This article represents a new approach to assess the impact of environment on internal armed conflict by using georeferenced (GIS) data and small geographical, rather than political, units of analysis. It addresses some of the most important factors assumed to be strongly influenced by global warming: land degradation, freshwater availability, and population density and change. While population growth and density are associated with increased risks, the effects of land degradation and water scarcity are weak, negligible or insignificant. The results indicate that the effects of political and economic factors far outweigh those between local level demographic/environmental factors and conflict.


Reuveny, R. 2007. Climate change-induced migration and violent conflict. Political Geography 26 (6): 656-673.

In a world of rising sea levels and melting glaciers, climate change is most likely occurring but with uncertain overall effects. I argue that we can predict the effects of climate change on migration by exploring the effects of environmental problems on migration in recent decades. People can adapt to these problems by staying in place and doing nothing, staying in place and mitigating the problems, or leaving the affected areas. The choice between these options will depend on the extent of problems and mitigation capabilities. People living in lesser developed countries may be more likely to leave affected areas, which may cause conflict in receiving areas. My findings support this theory, and suggest certain policy implications for climate change.


Selby, J. and C. Hoffman. 2014. Beyond Scarcity: Rethinking water, climate change and conflict in the Sudans. Global Environmental Change (in press).

This article develops a new framework for understanding environment-conflict relations, on both theoretical grounds and through a qualitative historical analysis of the links between water and conflict in the states of Sudan and South Sudan. Theoretically, the article critiques the dominant emphases on ‘scarcity’, ‘state failure’ and ‘under- development’ within discussions of environmental security, and proposes an alternative model of environment-conflict relations centring on resource abundance and globally- embedded processes of state-building and development. Empirically, it examines three claimed (or possible) linkages between water and conflict in the Sudans: over trans- boundary waters of the Nile; over the links between internal resource scarcities and civil conflict; and over the internal conflict impacts of water abundance and development. We find that there exists only limited evidence in support of the first two of these linkages, but plentiful evidence that water abundance, and state-directed processes of economic development and internal colonisation relating to water, have had violent consequences. We conclude that analysts and policymakers should pay more attention to the impacts of resource abundance, militarised state power and global political economic forces in their assessments of the potential conflict impacts of environmental and especially climate change.


Slettebak, R. T. 2012. Don’t blame the weather! Climate-related natural disasters and civil conflict. Journal of Peace Research 49 (1): 163-176.

The issue of climate change and security has received much attention in recent years. Still, the results from research on this topic are mixed and the academic community appears to be far from a consensus on how climate change is likely to affect stability and conflict risk in affected countries. This study focuses on how climate-related natural disasters such as storms, floods, and droughts have affected the risk of civil war in the past. The frequency of such disasters has risen sharply over the last decades, and the increase is expected to continue due to both climate change and demographic changes. Using multivariate methods, this study employs a global sample covering 1950 to the present in order to test whether adding climate-related natural disasters to a well- specified model on civil conflict can increase its explanatory power. The results indicate that this is the case, but that the relation is opposite to common perceptions: Countries that are affected by climate-related natural disasters face a lower risk of civil war. One worrying facet of the claims that environmental factors cause conflict is that they may contribute to directing attention away from more important conflict-promoting factors, such as poor governance and poverty. There is a serious risk of misguided policy to prevent civil conflict if the assumption that disasters have a significant effect on war is allowed to overshadow more important causes.


Sunga, L.S. 2014. Does Climate Change Worsen Resource Scarcity and Cause Violent Ethnic Conflict? International Journal on Minority & Group Rights 21 (1): 1-24.

Does climate change create conditions in which ethnic groups, particularly in developing countries, become more likely to struggle for scarce resources which can then spur ethnically motivated violence and serious atrocities? Or is the relation between climate change and atrocities, if there is one, far more complex and perhaps indirect? How should climate change be viewed as a risk factor for the onset of violent ethnic conflict? What practical relevance could climate change effects have on early warning and prevention of serious human rights violations including crimes against humanity and genocide? The author first considers whether climate change science warnings deserve to be taken seriously before reviewing empirical studies focussing on the supposed link between climate change and ethnic conflict. Second, he argues that it is valuable to treat climate change as a possible risk factor for ethnic conflict situations in which crimes against humanity or genocide might be perpetrated, and to reflect upon early warning and prevention in this connection. The author then sets out five considerations that research on the question of a causal link between climate change and ethnic conflict should take into account.


Theisen, O.M., N.P. Gleditsch, and H. Buhaug. 2013. Is climate change a driver of armed conflict? Climatic Change 117 (3): 613-625.

The world is generally becoming less violent, but the debate on climate change raises the specter of a new source of instability and conflict. In this field, the policy debate is running well ahead of its academic foundation—and sometimes even contrary to the best evidence. Although comparative research on security implications of climate change is rapidly expanding, major gaps in knowledge still exist. Taken together, extant studies provide mostly inconclusive insights, with contradictory or weak demonstrated effects of climate variability and change on armed conflict. This article reviews the empirical literature on short-term climate/environmental change and intrastate conflict, with special attention to possible insecurity consequences of precipitation and temperature anomalies and weather-related natural disasters. Based on this assessment, it outlines priorities for future research in this area.


Tir. J. and D.M. Stinnett. 2012. Weathering climate change: Can institutions mitigate international water conflict? Journal of Peace Research 49 (1): 211-225.

Although the subject remains contested, some have speculated that climate change could jeopardize international security. Climate change is likely to alter the runoff of many rivers due to changes in precipitation patterns. At the same time, climate change will likely increase the demand for river water, due to more frequent droughts and greater stress being placed on other sources of water. The resulting strain on transboundary rivers could contribute to international tensions and increase the risk of military conflict. This study nevertheless notes that the propensity for conflicts over water to escalate depends on whether the river in question is governed by a formal agreement. More specifically, the article argues that the ability of river treaties to adapt to the increase in water stress resulting from climate change will depend on their institutional design. It focuses on four specific institutional features: provisions for joint monitoring, conflict resolution, treaty enforcement, and the delegation of authority to intergovernmental organizations. Treaties that contain more of these features are expected to better manage conflicts caused by water stress. This expectation is tested by analyzing historical data on water availability and the occurrence of militarized conflict between signatories of river treaties, 1950–2000. The empirical results reveal that water scarcity does increase the risk of military conflict, but that this risk is offset by institutionalized agreements. These results provide evidence, albeit indirect, that the presence of international institutions can be an important means of adapting to thesecurity consequences of climate change by playing an intervening role between climate change and international conflict.


Tol, R.S.J. and S. Wagner. 2010. Climate change and violent conflict in Europe over the last millennium. Climatic Change 99 (1-2): 65-79.

We investigate the relationship between a thousand-year history of violent conflict in Europe and various reconstructions of temperature and precipitation. We find that conflict was more intense during colder period, just like Zhang et al. (Clim Change 76:459–477, 2006) found for China. This relationship weakens in the industrialized era, and is not robust to the details of the climate reconstruction or to the sample period. As the correlation is negative and weakening, it appears that global warming would not lead to an increase in violent conflict in temperature climates.


Vivekananda, J., J. Schilling, and D. Smith. 2014. Climate resilience in fragile and conflict- affected societies: concepts and approaches. Development in Practice 24 (4): 487-501.

To understand resilience to climate and environmental changes in fragile and conflict- affected societies is particularly important but equally challenging. In this paper, we first develop a conceptual framework to explore the climate-fragility-conflict and climate- resilience-peace nexus. Second, we discuss approaches to promote pathways from climatic changes to peace. We draw on the relevant literature and International Alert’s experience in fragile and conflict-affected societies to stress the key role of resilience. To build resilience, climate, development, peacebuilding, and government actors would have to overcome bureaucratic and institutional barriers and cooperate across thematic and regional silos.