Climate Shocks & Political Violence: Is Africa Unique?
33 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2011
Date Written: August 20, 2011
The academic and policy discourses on the security implications of climate change have focused overwhelmingly on Africa. Analysts have typically asserted that acute environmental scarcity, such as that caused by drought, fuels political and economic grievances and political violence. Contrary to the dominant discourse, we argue that there are good reasons why drought might have a pacifying effect on conflict, and that political violence should be more prevalent during periods of comparatively better agro-climatic conditions. This paper explores the relationship between acute environmental scarcity – droughts and water availability – and political violence in a global sample of more than 150 countries, 1980-2008. We find that the drought – political violence relationship is: a) positive, with wetter years seeing more political violence, and b) not simply a phenomenon of Africa. Moreover, we demonstrate that certain intervening political and economic factors – low levels of development, more authoritarian political institutions, and higher levels of agricultural dependence – exacerbate the effect of water availability on conflict.
Keywords: Africa, political violence, rainfall, environment, climate change
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