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Don’t blame the weather! Climate-related natural disasters and civil conflict

Author

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  • Rune T Slettebak

    () (Department of Sociology and Political Science, NTNU & CSCW, PRIO)

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Rune T Slettebak, 2012. "Don’t blame the weather! Climate-related natural disasters and civil conflict," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 49(1), pages 163-176, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:joupea:v:49:y:2012:i:1:p:163-176
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    Cited by:

    1. Lopez-Uribe, Maria del Pilar & Castells-Quintana, David & McDermott, Thomas K. J., 2017. "Geography, institutions and development: a review ofthe long-run impacts of climate change," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 65147, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    2. Giorgos Kallis & Christos Zografos, 2014. "Hydro-climatic change, conflict and security," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 123(1), pages 69-82, March.
    3. Chen, Junyi & McCarl, Bruce A. & Price, Edwin & Wu, Ximing & Bessler, David A., 2016. "Climate as a Cause of Conflict: An Econometric Analysis," 2016 Annual Meeting, February 6-9, 2016, San Antonio, Texas 229783, Southern Agricultural Economics Association.
    4. 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.
    5. Richard Matthew, 2014. "Integrating climate change into peacebuilding," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 123(1), pages 83-93, March.
    6. David Castells-Quintana & Maria del Pilar Lopez-Uribe & Tom McDermott, 2015. "Climate change and the geographical and institutional drivers of economic development," GRI Working Papers 198, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
    7. 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.
    8. 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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