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Winter is Coming: The Long-Run Effects of Climate Change on Conflict, 1400-1900


  • Iyigun, Murat

    () (University of Colorado, Boulder)

  • Nunn, Nathan

    () (Harvard University)

  • Qian, Nancy

    () (Northwestern University)


This paper investigates the long-run effects of climate change on conflict by examining cooling from 1400-1900 CE, a period that includes most of the Little Ice Age. We construct a geo-referenced and digitized database of conflicts in Europe, North Africa, and the Near East from 1400-1900, which we merge with historical temperature data. We first show that during this time, cooling is associated with increased conflict. Then, turning to the dynamics of cooling, we allow the effects of cooling over a fifty-year period to depend on the extent of cooling during the preceding fifty-year period. We find that the effect of cooling on conflict is significantly larger if the same location experienced cooling during the preceding period. We interpret this as evidence that the adverse effect of climate change intensifies with its duration.

Suggested Citation

  • Iyigun, Murat & Nunn, Nathan & Qian, Nancy, 2017. "Winter is Coming: The Long-Run Effects of Climate Change on Conflict, 1400-1900," IZA Discussion Papers 10475, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp10475

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ruixue Jia, 2011. "Weather Shocks, Sweet Potatoes and Peasant Revolts in Historical China," HiCN Working Papers 93, Households in Conflict Network.
    2. Carl-Johan Dalgaard & Casper Worm Hansen, 2015. "Climate Shocks and (very) Long-Run Productivity," Discussion Papers 15-15, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
    3. Durante, Ruben, 2009. "Risk, Cooperation and the Economic Origins of Social Trust: an Empirical Investigation," MPRA Paper 25887, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Richard S.J. Tol & Sebastian Wagner, 2008. "Climate Change and Violent Conflict in Europe over the Last Millennium," Working Papers FNU-154, Research unit Sustainability and Global Change, Hamburg University, revised Jan 2008.
    5. repec:spo:wpecon:info:hdl:2441/eu4vqp9ompqllr09iatsh0to2 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Maria Waldinger, 2015. "The economic effects of long-term climate change: evidence from the little ice age," GRI Working Papers 214, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
    7. Robin Burgess & Dave Donaldson, 2010. "Can Openness Mitigate the Effects of Weather Shocks? Evidence from India's Famine Era," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(2), pages 449-453, May.
    8. Kung, James Kai-sing & Ma, Chicheng, 2014. "Can cultural norms reduce conflicts? Confucianism and peasant rebellions in Qing China," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 111(C), pages 132-149.
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    More about this item


    environment; development; political economy;

    JEL classification:

    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • Q34 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation - - - Natural Resources and Domestic and International Conflicts
    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism

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