Conflict in a changing climate

Abstract

A growing body of research illuminates the role that changes in climate have had on violent conflict and social instability in the recent past. Across a diversity of contexts, high temperatures and irregular rainfall have been causally linked to a range of conflict outcomes. These findings can be paired with climate model output to generate projections of the impact future climate change may have on conflicts such as crime and civil war. However, there are large degrees of uncertainty in such projections, arising from (i) the statistical uncertainty involved in regression analysis, (ii) divergent climate model predictions, and (iii) the unknown ability of human societies to adapt to future climate change. In this article, we review the empirical evidence of the climate-conflict relationship, provide insight into the likely extent and feasibility of adaptation to climate change as it pertains to human conflict, and discuss new methods that can be used to provide projections that capture these three sources of uncertainty.

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Carleton, T., Hsiang, S. & Burke, M. Conflict in a changing climate. Eur. Phys. J. Spec. Top. 225, 489–511 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1140/epjst/e2015-50100-5

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