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Could climate change precipitate peace?

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  • Erik Gartzke

    (University of California, San Diego)

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Erik Gartzke, 2012. "Could climate change precipitate peace?," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 49(1), pages 177-192, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:joupea:v:49:y:2012:i:1:p:177-192
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    File URL: http://jpr.sagepub.com/content/49/1/177.abstract
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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. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. Richard Matthew, 2014. "Integrating climate change into peacebuilding," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 123(1), pages 83-93, March.
    5. 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.

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