Date of Award
Josef Korbel School of International Studies
Frank Laird, Ph.D.
Climate change, Conflict, Conflict in Africa, Forecasting, Intrastate conflict
Africa has the dubious distinction of being the continent most likely to experience the worst climate change has to offer while having the population most vulnerable to its effects. Many of the continent's sub regions and countries also have recent histories of violence or are currently mired in conflict. Africa's proneness to conflict and its vulnerability to climate change provide the best model for showing how climate change, by the way it interacts with other, better understood drivers of conflict, will likely become an important source of conflict within the region and around the world over the rest of this century.
This paper's aim was to identify some possible causal pathways by which the effects of climate change might be linked to the outbreak of conflict. To achieve this, this paper sought to answer five main questions: 1) why do conflicts occur when and where they do? 2) How might climate change impact human societies in Africa? 3) Can those impacts lead directly to conflict occurrence, or 4) might they instead act indirectly, through other, more central drivers of conflict? 5) Should there be a climate-conflict relationship, can we build a model to identify potential future conflict `hotspots' in Africa or around the world? By providing some answers to these questions, we were able to identify several possible climate-conflict pathways. We found that the economic impacts of climate change, particularly on a country's agricultural sector and economy through direct disaster related damage do provide a realistic pathway to conflict in vulnerable countries as peoples' livelihoods are negatively impacted, the impacts are not equally shared among all ethnic groups, and the state itself may not be able to correct such imbalances.
The economic impact of climate change coupled with its negative impact on food and water security may also drive increased levels of migration, and with the movement of large numbers of people comes a greater probability of conflict. The impacts of climate change may also weaken states to the point that they can no longer provide basic services demanding by its population, leading to a loss of legitimacy and potentially the rise of rebellion. The pace of climate change can also affect the likelihood of conflict occurrence with more rapid pace developments and disasters being more likely to cause conflict due to less possibility of successful adaptation. In each pathway, climate change acts as a threat multiplier, acting through other sociopolitical, economic, democratic, security and systemic drivers to increase the likelihood of conflict, rather than driving conflict outright.
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Received from ProQuest
Margolese-Malin, Eli Samuel, "Climate Change and Intrastate Conflict in Africa" (2011). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 396.
International relations, Climate change