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Come rain or shine: An analysis of conflict and climate variability in East Africa

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Author Info

  • Clionadh Raleigh

    (Trinity College Dublin & Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO))

  • Dominic Kniveton

    (University of Sussex)

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    Abstract

    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.

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    File URL: http://jpr.sagepub.com/content/49/1/51.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: 51-64

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    Handle: RePEc:sae:joupea:v:49:y:2012:i:1:p:51-64

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

    Related research

    Keywords: civil war; communal violence; East Africa; environment; rainfall;

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    Cited by:
    1. Margherita Calderone & Jean-Francois Maystadt & Liangzhi You, 2013. "Local Warming and Violent Conflict in North and South Sudan," HiCN Working Papers 149, Households in Conflict Network.
    2. Klomp, Jeroen & Bulte, Erwin H., 2012. "Climate Change, Weather Shocks and Violent Conflict: A Critical Look at the Evidence," 2012 Conference, August 18-24, 2012, Foz do Iguacu, Brazil 125861, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
    3. 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.
    4. Nicholas Stern, 2013. "The Structure of Economic Modeling of the Potential Impacts of Climate Change: Grafting Gross Underestimation of Risk onto Already Narrow Science Models," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 51(3), pages 838-59, September.
    5. Paul Evangelista & Nicholas Young & Jonathan Burnett, 2013. "How will climate change spatially affect agriculture production in Ethiopia? Case studies of important cereal crops," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 119(3), pages 855-873, August.

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