Context matters

Much effort has been invested in uncovering systematic connections between climate variability (or change) and various forms of organized armed conflict. Thus far, this body of research has lead to inconclusive and mostly weak findings. A limitation of many of these studies, meanwhile, is their implicit assumption that a given climatic shock exerts the same impact on societies across contexts. In a new study that has just been published, we address this shortcoming by explicitly modeling drought effects conditional on socioeconomic and political contexts for each politically relevant ethnic group in Asia and Africa. We find that growing-season drought has little impact on the risk of new civil conflict outbreak. However, in contexts of severe economic or political marginalization, a drought increases the likelihood that ongoing conflict is sustained. We interpret this result as evidence of the reciprocal relationship between drought and conflict; each phenomenon increasing a group’s vulnerability to the other. The article is accessible for free from the journal’s web page.

von Uexkull, Nina, Mihai Croicu, Hanne Fjelde, and Halvard Buhaug. 2016. Civil conflict sensitivity to growing-season drought. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 113(44): 12391–12396.  [Open Access]

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