nEW dIrECTIonS In DemOgrAPhiC SeCurity

  • Published 2009


Climate change is expected to alter the availability of freshwater, the productive capacity of soils, and patterns of human settlement. But we do not know the extent and geographical distribution of these changes, nor can we know how climate-related environmental change may influence human societies and political systems. The most dire predictions warn that climate change may greatly increase the risk of violent conflict over increasingly scarce resources, such as freshwater and arable land. We argue that such forecasts would be more accurate and less sensational if they were based on the relationships between demography, environment, and violent conflict found in the recent past. Land degradation, freshwater availability, and population density and change are important factors that many scholars argue have both influenced the risk of conflict in the past and will be strongly influenced by climate change. As previous quantitative studies have found mixed evidence for the resource scarcity and conflict nexus, we sought to reconcile these diverse findings by looking below national aggregates at local-level data. In our study, we found that local-level demographic and environmental factors do have some effect on conflict risk, but are generally outweighed by political and economic factors. Building on propositions from the literature on environmental security, we have identified potential links between natural resource scarcity and violent conflict. Combining these propositions with environmental change scenarios from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we tested hypotheses about the expected relationships in a statistical model with global coverage. While previous studies have mostly focused on national-level aggregates, we used a new approach to assess the impact of environmental change on internal armed conflict by using geo-referenced (GIS) data and geographical, rather than political, units of analysis. Obviously, climate change may bring about more severe and more abrupt forms of environmental change than we have experienced in the past. While this argument is frequently invoked to support dire claims about climate change and conflict, major changes are likely to be the result of smaller changes compounding over a considerable period of time. Also, while environmental change may be more severe in the future than the past, we are unable to assess the extent to which increased technological and institutional capacity will enhance our adaptability to the effects of climate change.

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Cite this paper

@inproceedings{2009nEWDI, title={nEW dIrECTIonS In DemOgrAPhiC SeCurity}, author={}, year={2009} }