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Climate change, rainfall, and social conflict in Africa

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  • Cullen S Hendrix
  • Idean Salehyan
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    Abstract

    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.

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    File URL: http://jpr.sagepub.com/content/49/1/35.abstract
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Peace Research Institute Oslo in its journal Journal of Peace Research.

    Volume (Year): 49 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 1 (January)
    Pages: 35-50

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    Handle: RePEc:sae:joupea:v:49:y:2012:i:1:p:35-50

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    Web page: http://www.prio.no/

    Related research

    Keywords: Africa; conflict; environment; protest; rainfall; rioting;

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    Cited by:
    1. Ole Theisen & Nils Gleditsch & Halvard Buhaug, 2013. "Is climate change a driver of armed conflict?," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 117(3), pages 613-625, April.
    2. Exenberger Andreas & Pondorfer Andreas, 2013. "Climate Change and the Risk of Mass Violence: Africa in the 21st Century," Peace Economics, Peace Science, and Public Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 19(3), pages 381-392, December.
    3. Hassani Mahmooei, Behrooz & Parris, Brett, 2012. "Why might climate change not cause conflict? an agent-based computational response," MPRA Paper 44918, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Gómez, O.A., 2013. "Climate change and migration," ISS Working Papers - General Series 572, International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS), The Hague.
    5. Brian Blankespoor & Alan Basist & Ariel Dinar & Shlomi Dinar & Harold Houba & Neil Thomas, 2014. "Assessing the Economic and Political Impacts of Climate Change on International River Basins using Surface Wetness in the Zambezi and Mekong Basins," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 14-005/II, Tinbergen Institute.
    6. Raul Caruso & Ilaria Petrarca & Roberto Ricciuti, 2014. "Climate Change, Rice Crops and Violence. Evidence from Indonesia," CESifo Working Paper Series 4665, CESifo Group Munich.

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