Climate Shocks & Political Violence: Is Africa Unique?

33 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2011

See all articles by Idean Salehyan

Idean Salehyan

University of North Texas; International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO); University of Texas at Austin - Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law; Southern Methodist University (SMU) - John G. Tower Center for Political Studies

Cullen S. Hendrix

University of Denver - Josef Korbel School of International Studies; Peterson Institute for International Economics

Date Written: August 20, 2011

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Salehyan, Idean and Hendrix, Cullen S., Climate Shocks & Political Violence: Is Africa Unique? (August 20, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1913359 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1913359

Idean Salehyan

University of North Texas ( email )

1155 Union Circle #305340
Denton, TX 76203
United States

International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO) ( email )

Oslo
N-0260 Oslo
Norway

University of Texas at Austin - Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law ( email )

2315 Red River Street
Austin, TX 78712
United States

Southern Methodist University (SMU) - John G. Tower Center for Political Studies ( email )

PO Box 750117
Dallas, TX 75275-0117
United States

Cullen S. Hendrix (Contact Author)

University of Denver - Josef Korbel School of International Studies ( email )

Denver, CO 80208
United States

Peterson Institute for International Economics ( email )

1750 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
United States

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