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Climate clashes? Weather variability, land pressure, and organized violence in Kenya, 1989–2004

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  • Ole Magnus Theisen

    () (Norwegian University of Science and Technology & Centre for the Study of Civil War, PRIO)

Abstract

The evidence of coming climate change has generated catastrophe-like statements of a future where a warmer, wetter, and wilder climate leads to a surge in migrant streams and gives rise to new wars. Although highly popular in policy circles, few of these claims are based on systematic evidence. Using a most-likely case design on Kenya 1989–2004, with new geographically disaggregated data on armed conflicts below the common civil conflict level, this study finds that climatic factors do influence the risk of conflicts and violent events. The effect is opposite to what should be expected from much of the international relations literature; rather, it supports the observations made by recent anthropological studies. Years with below average rainfall tend to have a peaceful effect on the following year and less robustly so for the current year as well. Little support is found for the notion that scarcity of farmland fuels violence in itself or in election years. More densely populated areas – not areas with a low land per capita ratio – run a higher risk of conflict. Election years systematically see more violence, however. The findings therefore support the notion that large-scale intergroup violence is driven by calculation and political gain rather than desperate scrambles for scarce land, pasture, and water resources.

Suggested Citation

  • Ole Magnus Theisen, 2012. "Climate clashes? Weather variability, land pressure, and organized violence in Kenya, 1989–2004," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 49(1), pages 81-96, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:joupea:v:49:y:2012:i:1:p:81-96
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Stijn van Weezel, 2016. "Communal violence in the Horn of Africa following the 1998 El Niño," Working Papers 201617, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
    3. Jean-François Maystadt & Margherita Calderone & Liangzhi You, 2015. "Local warming and violent conflict in North and South Sudan," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 15(3), pages 649-671.
    4. Gerdis Wischnath & Halvard Buhaug, 2014. "On climate variability and civil war in Asia," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 122(4), pages 709-721, February.
    5. Melissa Dell & Benjamin F. Jones & Benjamin A. Olken, 2013. "What Do We Learn from the Weather? The New Climate-Economy Literature," NBER Working Papers 19578, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. 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.
    7. Hassani-Mahmooei, Behrooz & Parris, Brett W., 2013. "Resource scarcity, effort allocation and environmental security: An agent-based theoretical approach," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 183-192.
    8. Stijn van Weezel, 2017. "Communal violence in the Horn of Africa following the 1998 El Niño," HiCN Working Papers 241 updated, Households in Conflict Network.
    9. Richard Akresh, 2016. "Climate Change, Conflict, and Children," HiCN Working Papers 221, Households in Conflict Network.
    10. Jean-François Maystadt & Olivier Ecker, 2014. "Extreme Weather and Civil War: Does Drought Fuel Conflict in Somalia through Livestock Price Shocks?," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1157-1182.
    11. 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.
    12. 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.
    13. H. Buhaug & J. Nordkvelle & T. Bernauer & T. Böhmelt & M. Brzoska & J. Busby & A. Ciccone & H. Fjelde & E. Gartzke & N. Gleditsch & J. Goldstone & H. Hegre & H. Holtermann & V. Koubi & J. Link & P. Li, 2014. "One effect to rule them all? A comment on climate and conflict," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 127(3), pages 391-397, December.

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