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CLIMATE CHANGE LINK TO WAR REMAINS TENUOUS
Los Angeles, CA (February 1st, 2012) –Does climate change sow the seeds of war? Until recently, most answers to this political question have been based on speculation. A landmark issue of the Journal of Peace Research (JPR) published by SAGE on behalf of the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) investigates a host of potential causes for conflict. Many other factors have a far greater influence than climate change on peace and stability, most of the studies conclude.
On balance, the authors featured in JPR only find limited support for an influence of climate change on armed conflict. But this does not eliminate the possibility that when climate issues are framed as a security problem, this may influence actor perception and contribute to a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In the largest collection of peer-reviewed writings on the topic to date, the authors employ systematic climate data and climate projections. Most of the articles deal with civil war, a few with international war, and several studies go beyond state-based conflict to look at possible implications for communal conflict and other kinds of violence.
A number of studies focus on the role of rainfall. Cullen Hendrix and Idean Salehyan (College of William and Mary and University of North Texas respectively) use a new database of over 6000 conflicts over two decades in Africa. They find that rainfall variability affects both large and small-scale political conflict but that violent events are actually more likely in years of abundant rainfall. This finding casts doubt on the common assumption linking drought to violent conflict. Similar results are found in studies of Kenya (by Ole Magnus Theisen of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, NTNU) and East Africa (by Dominic Kniveton of the University of Sussex and Clionadh Raleigh of Trinity College Dublin). Studies of Kenya’s drylands (by scholars in Germany and the Netherlands), Central Asia (by scholars at ETH Zürich), the Israel-Palestine conflict (by authors from both sides), and in two studies of international river basins (by authors from the Universities of Freiburg, Georgia, Oregon, and Colorado) suggest that institutional agreements are important to avoid an escalation of disputes about water allocations to armed clashes.
Another frequently posited link between climate change and conflict is the rate of natural disasters. Disasters are assumed to hurt growth and weaken the central government. However, economists Drago Bergholt (Norwegian Business School) and Päivi Lujala (NTNU) find that although more frequent climate-related disasters has a negative effect on economic growth, this does not translate into more armed conflict. More generally, Rune Slettebak (NTNU) finds that natural disasters actually tend to lower the risk of civil war. He finds more support for a perspective from crisis sociology, that people unite in adversity, There is a real risk that blaming the weather might be a distraction from more important causes of conflict, he warns.
An analysis of the 2005-09 World Values Survey (by scholars at NTNU) documents strong world-wide concern about global warming and suggests that this might eventually generate mass political participation and demand for political action. However, they find that variation across nations in wealth and CO2 emissions is not significantly related to the publics’ assessments of the problem. Paradoxically, people from countries commonly believed to be more severely affected by climate change are less, not more concerned about global warming. Erik Gartzke (University of California, San Diego) points out that economic development drives peace as well as climate change. Thus, efforts to curb climate change in middle-income nations, if these limit income, may actually have a destabilising effect in security terms.
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The publics’ concern for global warming: A cross-national study of 47 countries by Berit Kvaløy, Henning Finseraas & Ola Listhaug
African range wars: Climate, conflict, and property rights by Christopher K Butler & Scott Gates
Climate change, rainfall, and social conflict in Africa by Cullen Hendrix & Idean Salehyan
Come rain or shine: An analysis of conflict and climate variability in East Africa by Clionadh Raleigh & Dominic Kniveton
Climate clashes? Weather variability, land pressure, and organized violence in Kenya, 1989–2004 by Ole Magnus Theisen
Does climate change drive land-use conflicts in the Sahel? by Tor A Benjaminsen, Koffi Alinon, Halvard Buhaug & Jill Tove Buseth
Climate variability, economic growth, and civil conflict by Vally Koubi, Thomas Bernauer, Anna Kalbhenn & Gabriele Spilker
Civil war, climate change and development: A scenario study for Sub-saharan Africa by Conor Devitt & Richard S J Tol
Climate-related natural disasters, economic growth, and armed civil conflict by Drago Bergholt & Päivi Lujala
Don’t blame the weather! Climate-related natural disasters and civil conflict by Rune T Slettebak
Could climate change cause peace? by Erik Gartzke
Climate change and the institutional resilience of international river basins by Lucia De Stefano, James Duncan, Shlomi Dinar, Kerstin Stahl, Kenneth M Strzepek & Aaron T Wolf
Climate change and international water conflict in central Asia by Thomas Bernauer & Tobias Siegfried
Climate change and security in the Israeli-Palestinian context by Eran Feitelson, Abdelrahman Tamimi & Gad Rosenthal
SAGE is a leading international publisher of journals, books, and electronic media for academic, educational, and professional markets. Since 1965, SAGE has helped inform and educate a global community of scholars, practitioners, researchers, and students spanning a wide range of subject areas including business, humanities, social sciences, and science, technology, and medicine. An independent company, SAGE has principal offices in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore and Washington DC. www.sagepublications.com
The Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) is a non-profit research institution established in 1959, whose overarching purpose is to conduct research on the conditions for peaceful relations between states, groups and people. The institute is independent, international and interdisciplinary, and explores issues related to all facets of peace and conflict. To remain at the cutting edge of peace research, PRIO is both proactively involved in identifying new trends in global conflict, and oriented toward formulating and documenting new understandings and responses. http://www.prio.no/