Climatic Change

, Volume 99, Issue 1–2, pp 65–79 | Cite as

Climate change and violent conflict in Europe over the last millennium

  • Richard S. J. Tol
  • Sebastian Wagner
Open Access


We investigate the relationship between a thousand-year history of violent conflict in Europe and various reconstructions of temperature and precipitation. We find that conflict was more intense during colder period, just like Zhang et al. (Clim Change 76:459–477, 2006) found for China. This relationship weakens in the industrialized era, and is not robust to the details of the climate reconstruction or to the sample period. As the correlation is negative and weakening, it appears that global warming would not lead to an increase in violent conflict in temperature climates.


Temperature Reconstruction Climate Model Simulation Violent Conflict Northern Hemisphere Temperature Serial Autocorrelation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Alesina A, Spolaore E (2005) The size of nations. MIT, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  2. Atwell WS (2001) Volcanism and short-term climatic change in East Asian and World history, c. 1200–1699. J World Hist 12(1):29–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barnett J (2006) Climate change, insecurity and injustice. In: Adger WN, Paavola J, Huq S, Mace MJ (eds) Fairness in adaptation to climate change. MIT, Cambridge, pp 115–130Google Scholar
  4. Barnett J, Adger WN (2007) Climate change, human security and violent conflict. Polit Geogr 26(6):639–655CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Buhaug H, Gleditsch NP, Theisen OM (2008) Implications of climate change for armed conflict. Social dimensions of climate change working paper, World Bank, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  6. Butkiewicz JL, Yanikkaya H (2005) The impact of sociopolitical instability on economic growth: analysis and implications. J Policy Model 27(5):629–645CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Collier P, Hoeffler A (1998) On economic causes of civil war. Oxf Econ Pap 50:563–573CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Collier P, Hoeffler A (2005) Resource rents, governance and conflicts. J Confl Resolut 49(4):625–633CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Crowley TJ, Lowery TS (2000) Northern hemisphere temperature reconstruction. Ambio 29:51–54Google Scholar
  10. d’Arrigo R, Wilson R, Jacoby G (2006) On the long-term context for late twentieth century warming. J Geophys Res 111. doi: 10.1029/2005JD006352 Google Scholar
  11. Esper J, Cook ER, Schweingruber FH (2002) Low-frequency signals in long tree-ring chronologies for reconstructing past temperature variability. Science 295:2250–2253CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Held IM, Delworth TL, Lu J, Findell KL, Knutson TR (2006) Simulation of Sahel drought in the 20th and 21st centuries. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 103(4):1152–1153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hendrix CS, Glaser SM (2007) Trends and triggers: climate, climate change and civil conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa. Polit Geogr 26(6):695–715CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Homer-Dixon TF (1991) On the threshold—environmental changes as causes of acute conflict. Int Secur 16(2):76–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Homer-Dixon TF (1994) Environmental scarcities and violent conflict: evidence from cases. Int Secur 19(1):5–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Homer-Dixon TF, Boutwell JH, Rathjens GW (1993) Environmental change and violent conflict. Sci Am 268(2):38–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hurrell JW, Van Loon H (1997) Decadal variations in climate associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation. Clim Change 36:301–326CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Luterbacher J, Dietrich D, Xoplaki E, Grosjean M, Wanner H (2004) European seasonal and annual temperature variability, trends, and extremes since 1500. Science 303:1499–1503. doi: 10.1126/science.1093877 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Mann ME, Jones PD (2003) Global surface temperatures over the past two millennia. Geophys Res Lett 30. doi: 10.1029/2003GL017814 Google Scholar
  20. Maxwell JW, Reuveny R (2000) Resource scarcity and conflict in developing countries. J Peace Res 37(3):301–322CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. McGregor J (1994) Climate change and forced migration—implications for food security. Food Policy 19(2):120–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. McLeman R, Smit B (2006) Migration as an adaptation to climate change. Clim Change 76:31–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Meier P, Bond D, Bond J (2007) Environmental influences on pastoral conflict in the Horn of Africa. Polit Geogr 26(6):716–735CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Moberg A, Sonechkin DM, Holmgren K, Datsenko NM, Karlén W (2005) Highly variable Northern Hemisphere temperatures reconstructed from low- and high-resolution proxy data. Nature 433:613–617CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Nicholls RJ, Small C (2002) Improved estimates of coastal population and exposure to hazards released. Eos Trans Am Geophys Union 83(28):301–305CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Nicholls RJ, Tol RSJ (2006) Impacts and responses to sea-level rise: a global analysis of the SRES scenarios over the 21st century. Philos Trans R Soc Lond Ser A: Math Phys Eng Sci 361(1841):1073–1095CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Nordås R, Gleditsch NP (2007) Climate change and conflict. Polit Geogr 26(6):627–638CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Pauling A, Luterbacher J, Casty C, Wanner H (2006) Five hundred years of gridded high-resolution precipitation reconstructions over Europe and the connection to large-scale circulation. Clim Dyn 26:387–405CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Raleigh C, Urdal H (2007) Climate change, environmental degradation and armed conflict. Polit Geogr 26(6):674–694Google Scholar
  30. Reilly JM, Schimmelpfennig D (1999) Agricultural impact assessment, vulnerability, and the scope for adaptation. Clim Change 43:745–788CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Reuveny R (2007) Climate change-induced migration and violent conflict. Polit Geogr 26(6):656–673CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Schwartz P, Randall D (2003) An abrupt climate change scenario and its implications for United States national security. Global Business Network, San FranciscoGoogle Scholar
  33. Sorokin PA (1937) Social and cultural dynamics. American Book, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  34. Tol RSJ, Fankhauser S, Richels RG, Smith JB (2000) How much damage will climate change do? recent estimates. World Econ 1(4):179–206Google Scholar
  35. von Storch H, Zorita E, Jones J, Dimitriev Y, González-Rouco F, Tett S (2004) Reconstructing past climate from noisy data. Science 306:679–682CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. WBGU (2007) World in transition: climate change as a security risk. German Advisory Council on Global Change, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  37. Xoplaki E, Luterbacher J, Paeth H, Dietrich D, Steiner N, Grosjean M, Wanner H (2005) European spring and autumn temperature variability and change of extremes over the last half millennium. Geophys Res Lett 32:L15713. doi: 10.1029/2005GL023424 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Yohe GW, Tol RSJ (2002) Indicators for social and economic coping capacity—moving towards a working definition of adaptive capacity. Glob Environ Change 12(1):25–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Zhang DD, Jim CY, Lin GC-S, He Y-Q, Wang JJ, Lee HF (2006) Climatic change, wars and dynastic cycles in China over the last millennium. Clim Change 76:459–477CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Zhou Y, Tol RSJ (2005) Evaluating the costs of desalination and water transport. Water Resour Res 41(3):W03003CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Zorita E, González-Rouco F, Legutke S (2003) Testing the Mann et al (1998) approach to paleoclimate reconstructions in the context of a 1000-yr control simulation with the ECHO-G coupled climate model. J Climate 16:1378–1390CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Economic and Social Research InstituteDublinIreland
  2. 2.Institute for Environmental StudiesVrije UniversiteitAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of Spatial EconomicsVrije UniversiteitAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Institute for Coastal ResearchGKSS Research CentreGeesthachtGermany

Personalised recommendations