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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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    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. Sarsons, Heather, 2015. "Rainfall and conflict: A cautionary tale," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 115(C), pages 62-72.
    3. Ore Koren & Benjamin E. Bagozzi, 2016. "From global to local, food insecurity is associated with contemporary armed conflicts," Food Security: The Science, Sociology and Economics of Food Production and Access to Food, Springer;The International Society for Plant Pathology, vol. 8(5), pages 999-1010, October.
    4. Gómez, O.A., 2013. "Climate change and migration," ISS Working Papers - General Series 50161, International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS), The Hague.
    5. Gerdis Wischnath & Halvard Buhaug, 2014. "On climate variability and civil war in Asia," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 122(4), pages 709-721, February.
    6. 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.
    7. Johan Schot & Laur Kanger, 2016. "Deep Transitions: Emergence, Acceleration, Stabilization and Directionality," SPRU Working Paper Series 2016-15, SPRU - Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Sussex.
    8. Achim Ahrens, 2015. "Civil conflicts in Africa: Climate, economic shocks, nighttime lights and spill-over effects," SEEC Discussion Papers 1501, Spatial Economics and Econometrics Centre, Heriot Watt University.
    9. Tilman Brück & Patricia Justino & Charles Patrick MartinShields, 2017. "Conflict and development: Recent research advances and future agendas," WIDER Working Paper Series 178, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    10. Papaioannou, Kostadis J. & de Haas, Michiel, 2017. "Weather Shocks and Agricultural Commercialization in Colonial Tropical Africa: Did Cash Crops Alleviate Social Distress?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 346-365.
    11. Kostadis J. Papaioannou & Michiel de Haas, 2015. "Climate shocks, cash crops and resilience: Evidence from colonial tropical Africa," Working Papers 0076, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
    12. 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.
    13. Blanco, Esther & Lopez, Maria Claudia & Villamayor-Tomas, Sergio, 2015. "Exogenous degradation in the commons: Field experimental evidence," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 430-439.
    14. 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.
    15. Farzanegan, Mohammad Reza & Witthuhn, Stefan, 2017. "Corruption and political stability: Does the youth bulge matter?," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 47-70.
    16. 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.
    17. 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.
    18. Solomon Hsiang & Marshall Burke, 2014. "Climate, conflict, and social stability: what does the evidence say?," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 123(1), pages 39-55, March.
    19. 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.
    20. repec:eee:jeeman:v:86:y:2017:i:c:p:193-209 is not listed on IDEAS
    21. Buhaug Halvard, 2016. "Climate Change and Conflict: Taking Stock," Peace Economics, Peace Science, and Public Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 22(4), pages 331-338, December.
    22. Stijn van Weezel, 2017. "Mostly Harmless? A Subnational Analysis of the Aid-Conflict Nexus," Working Papers 201728, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
    23. Raul Caruso & Ilaria Petrarca & Roberto Ricciuti, 2014. "Climate Change, Rice Crops and Violence. Evidence from Indonesia," CESifo Working Paper Series 4665, CESifo Group Munich.
    24. Beger, Andreas & Dorff, Cassy L. & Ward, Michael D., 2016. "Irregular leadership changes in 2014: Forecasts using ensemble, split-population duration models," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 98-111.

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    Keywords

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

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