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Climate change, rainfall, and social conflict in Africa

Author

Listed:
  • Cullen S Hendrix

    (Department of Government, College of William & Mary)

  • Idean Salehyan

    (Department of Political Science, University of North Texas)

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Cullen S Hendrix & Idean Salehyan, 2012. "Climate change, rainfall, and social conflict in Africa," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 49(1), pages 35-50, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:joupea:v:49:y:2012:i:1:p:35-50
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    File URL: http://jpr.sagepub.com/content/49/1/35.abstract
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    Keywords

    Africa; conflict; environment; protest; rainfall; rioting;

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