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Climate change and the institutional resilience of international river basins


  • Lucia De Stefano

    (Oregon State University)

  • James Duncan

    (Oregon State University)

  • Shlomi Dinar

    (Florida International University)

  • Kerstin Stahl

    (University of Freiburg)

  • Kenneth M Strzepek

    (University of Colorado at Boulder)

  • Aaron T Wolf

    (Oregon State University)


In the existing 276 international river basins, the increase in water variability projected by most climate change scenarios may present serious challenges to riparian states. This research maps the institutional resilience to water variability in transboundary basins and combines it with both historic and projected variability regimes, with the objective of identifying areas at potential risk of future hydropolitical tension. To do so, it combs existing international treaties for sources of institutional resilience and considers the coefficient of variation of runoff as a measure of past and future water variability. The study finds significant gaps in both the number of people and area covered by institutional stipulations to deal with variability in South America and Asia. At present, high potential risk for hydropolitical tensions associated with water variability is identified in 24 transboundary basins and seems to be concentrated mainly in northern and sub-Saharan Africa. By 2050, areas at greatest potential risk are more spatially dispersed and can be found in 61 international basins, and some of the potentially large impacts of climate change are projected to occur away from those areas currently under scrutiny. Understanding when and where to target capacity-building in transboundary river basins for greater resilience to change is critical. This study represents a step toward facilitating these efforts and informing further qualitative and quantitative research into the relationship between climate change, hydrological variability regimes, and institutional capacity for accommodating variability.

Suggested Citation

  • Lucia De Stefano & James Duncan & Shlomi Dinar & Kerstin Stahl & Kenneth M Strzepek & Aaron T Wolf, 2012. "Climate change and the institutional resilience of international river basins," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 49(1), pages 193-209, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:joupea:v:49:y:2012:i:1:p:193-209

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jaroslav Tir & John T. Ackerman, 2009. "Politics of Formalized River Cooperation," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 46(5), pages 623-640, September.
    2. Erik Ansink & Arjan Ruijs, 2008. "Climate Change and the Stability of Water Allocation Agreements," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 41(2), pages 249-266, October.
    3. J.H. Verkerke, 2009. "Discharge," Chapters,in: Labor and Employment Law and Economics, chapter 16 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    4. Dinar, Ariel & Blankespoor, Brian & Dinar, Shlomi & Kurukulasuriya, Pradeep, 2010. "Does precipitation and runoff variability affect treaty cooperation between states sharing international bilateral rivers?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(12), pages 2568-2581, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Mark Giordano & Alena Drieschova & James Duncan & Yoshiko Sayama & Lucia De Stefano & Aaron Wolf, 2014. "A review of the evolution and state of transboundary freshwater treaties," International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 14(3), pages 245-264, September.
    2. Simon Tilleard & James Ford, 2016. "Adaptation readiness and adaptive capacity of transboundary river basins," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 137(3), pages 575-591, August.
    3. repec:spr:waterr:v:31:y:2017:i:9:d:10.1007_s11269-017-1648-z is not listed on IDEAS
    4. 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.
    5. Giorgos Kallis & Christos Zografos, 2014. "Hydro-climatic change, conflict and security," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 123(1), pages 69-82, March.
    6. Ansink, Erik & Houba, Harold, 2016. "Sustainable agreements on stochastic river flow," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 92-117.
    7. Dagmawi Mulugeta Degefu & Weijun He & Liang Yuan & Jian Hua Zhao, 2016. "Water Allocation in Transboundary River Basins under Water Scarcity: a Cooperative Bargaining Approach," Water Resources Management: An International Journal, Published for the European Water Resources Association (EWRA), Springer;European Water Resources Association (EWRA), vol. 30(12), pages 4451-4466, September.
    8. Dinar, Shlomi & Katz, David & De Stefano, Lucia & Blankespoor, Brian, 2014. "Climate change, conflict, and cooperation : global analysis of the resilience of international river treaties to increased water variability," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6916, The World Bank.
    9. Kirsty Lewis, 2014. "Climate science in climate security scenarios," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 123(1), pages 11-22, March.
    10. Erik Ansink & Hans-Peter Weikard, 2015. "Composition properties in the river claims problem," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 44(4), pages 807-831, April.
    11. Jacob D. Petersen-Perlman, 2016. "Projecting River Basin Resilience in the Zambezi River Basin through Global Analyses and Basin Realities," Water Resources Management: An International Journal, Published for the European Water Resources Association (EWRA), Springer;European Water Resources Association (EWRA), vol. 30(6), pages 1987-2003, April.
    12. Hojjat Mianabadi & Erik Mostert & Saket Pande & Nick van de Giesen, 2015. "Weighted Bankruptcy Rules and Transboundary Water Resources Allocation," Water Resources Management: An International Journal, Published for the European Water Resources Association (EWRA), Springer;European Water Resources Association (EWRA), vol. 29(7), pages 2303-2321, May.
    13. Anita Milman & Lisa Bunclark & Declan Conway & William Adger, 2013. "Assessment of institutional capacity to adapt to climate change in transboundary river basins," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 121(4), pages 755-770, December.
    14. Dagmawi Mulugeta Degefu & Weijun He, 2016. "Allocating Water under Bankruptcy Scenario," Water Resources Management: An International Journal, Published for the European Water Resources Association (EWRA), Springer;European Water Resources Association (EWRA), vol. 30(11), pages 3949-3964, September.
    15. Erik Ansink & Harold Houba, 2014. "The Economics of Transboundary River Management," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 14-132/VIII, Tinbergen Institute.


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