Climate-Related Disasters Raise Conflict Risk, Study Says

A new study finds that 23% of conflicts in ethnically diverse countries from 1980 - 2010 coincided with climate-related disasters like drought or heat waves, Carbon Brief reports.

Research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America suggests that climate-related extreme weather increases the risk of conflict in ethnically diverse countries, Robert McSweeney reports for Carbon Brief. 

By examining data on armed-conflict outbreaks and climate-related disasters during the period from 1980 – 2010, researchers found a coincidence rate of 9% globally between armed conflict outbreak and extreme weather like heat wave or drought. However, by looking specifically at “ethnically highly fractionalized countries” during the same time period, the researchers found that about 23% of conflict outbreaks coincided robustly with climate calamities.

The researchers stop short of suggesting that extreme weather triggers conflict, suggesting rather that extreme weather can be one of many contributing factors.

The study notes that “the disruptive nature of these events seems to play out in ethnically fractionalized societies in a particularly tragic way. This observation has important implications for future security policies as several of the world’s most conflict-prone regions, including North and Central Africa as well as Central Asia, are both exceptionally vulnerable to anthropogenic climate change and characterized by deep ethnic divides.”

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