Climate variability

Climate variability and security threats (CLIMSEC)


IIn recent years, rising food prices and the global financial crisis have pushed the number of food insecure people to more than one billion, reversing decades of slow but steady progress in reducing of hunger. Not only have the human costs been considerable, but it would also have had dramatic political repercussions. The 2007-08 food crisis sparked protests and riots in at least 48 countries, according to a study commissioned by the World Banktry. The idea that food insecurity leads to violent conflict is only one of many dimensions of the contemporary debate on climate security. However, unlike the near universal agreement between political leaders and NGOs that climate change poses a significant threat to peace and security, the scientific community has yet to reach consensus on the specific links between climate and climate. political violence.

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Climate and conflict blog.

CLIMSEC seeks to address gaps in the empirical literature, such as the inability of the scientific community to reach consensus on the specific links between climate and political violence and the apparent disconnect between theories and analyzes of climate links. conflict, providing a more rigorous scientific basis for effective policy advice and implementation. The project will be guided by the following overall research question: How does climate variability affect the dynamics of political violence?

Reflecting the general nature of this research question, the main scientific tool will be rigorous quantitative analysis at various levels of spatial and temporal aggregation. The project will draw on a multitude of data sources, including the PRIO-GRID dataset, Munch Re’s NatCat database and the NAVCO dataset. In addition, as a specific deliverable of the project, the Urban Social Unrest (USD) dataset will be extended. The quantitative empirical approach will be complemented by a set of qualitative case studies of carefully chosen areas and events as a means of studying the suggested processes, validating the main statistical conclusions, explaining unexpected patterns and facilitating the construction of a later theory.

The five-year research project (September 2015 – August 2020) is funded by a Consolidation Grant (CG) from the European Research Council (ERC) under the new EU Research and Innovation Program, Horizon 2020 (H2020). The project brings together researchers from institutions and countries, with Halvard Buhaug at PRIO as project leader;
Ole Magnus Theisen the Norwegian University of Science and Technology; Jonas Nordkvelle from PRIO; PhD candidate Elisabeth Lio Rosvold from PRIO and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, as well as three visiting researchers for nine months have not yet been announced.

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The project will be organized into four work packages (WP):

WP 1: Food insecurity

Objective: To study how the impacts of climate variability on food security affect political violence

WP 1 identifies two main pathways through which climate-induced food insecurity affects peace and stability. First, drought, heat waves and other extreme weather events can have a significant impact on food prices. During the recent global food crises, poor harvests by some of the world’s major food exporters have contributed to a dramatic increase in the international price of many food products. Second, households and subsistence societies dependent on local food production can experience dramatic food shortages and livestock losses when rains fail.

None of these proposed routes have been subjected to rigorous comparative testing. By focusing on the process at multiple scales ranging from food price volatility to social responses, WP 1 takes a consumer perspective. Two types of consequences of insecurity are considered particularly relevant in this context: urban protests and riots, and rural land use conflicts.

WP 2: Economic insecurity

Goal: Investigate how the economic impacts of climate variability affect political violence

WP 2 will study how the economic impacts of climate anomalies and extremes affect social cohesion and political stability. A new contribution in this regard is the decoupling of general economic performance from agricultural performance and the explicit consideration of alternative economic transmission mechanisms of an indirect relationship between climate and conflict in addition to food production. Unique to this project, we will build on Munich Re’s NatCat database, which contains unparalleled information on natural disasters, including coordinates of their spatial extent and best estimates of the economic and human losses suffered. Combined with other relevant high-resolution data, it will be possible for the first time to assess whether the economic damage from natural disasters is affecting the
local the risk or dynamics of political violence, including the possibility that disasters create an opportune moment for negotiations and conflict resolution.

WP 3: Forecast

Goal: Make short-term forecasts of political violence in response to food and economic shocks

WP 3 aims to develop a short-term prediction tool that will provide predictions of urban disorder and civil conflict over a time range of several months to two years. The specification of the forecasting model will be based on the results of the empirical models of the other WPs – with recalibration against the actual results as the project progresses.

The forecasting model will be analogous to an early warning tool, with frequent updating of real-time input data and constant evaluation of performance. International and national food price statistics will be an essential part of the tool, complemented by country-specific and time-varying information on economic performance and unemployment, foreign direct investment, approval rates. regimes, national political elections and irregular leadership transition, as well as various contextual variables.

WP4: Theorization and validation

Objectives: Develop a complete and testable theoretical model of the implications of climate variability on security; validate the main empirical conclusions of other work packages

The final work package is explicitly transversal by gathering and evaluating the results of WP 1 to 3 and by developing a common theoretical framework which will guide the specification of the empirical and predictive models. The first and most essential part of WP 4 concerns theory development, with particular emphasis on establishing the causal mechanisms and conditions in which various types of conflict emerge as plausible outcomes of food or economic shocks induced by weather. An important aspect of this work will be to make further progress in understanding the temporal dimension of the links between climate and conflict.


Peer-reviewed journal article

Mach, Katharine J .; W. Neil Adger; Halvard Buhaug; Marshal Burke; James Fearon; Christopher B. Field; Cullen Hendrix; Caroline M. Kraan; Jeac-François Maystadt; John O’Loughlin; Philippe Roessler; Jürgen Scheffran; Kenneth Schultz & Nina von Uexkull (2020) Guidelines for Climate and Conflict Research, The future of the Earth. DOI: 10.1029 / 2020EF001532.
Mach, Katharine J .; Caroline M. Kraan; W. Neil Adger; Halvard Buhaug; Marshal Burke; James Fearon; Christopher B. Field; Cullen Hendrix; Jeac-François Maystadt; John O’Loughlin; Philippe Roessler; Jürgen Scheffran; Kenneth Schultz & Nina von Uexkull (2019) Climate as a risk factor for armed conflict, Nature 571: 193-197.

Doctoral thesis

Book chapter

Vesco, Paola & Halvard Buhaug (2020) Climate and conflict, in Hampson, Fen Osler; Alpaslan Özerdem; & Jonathan Kent, editors, Routledge Handbook on Peace, Security and Development. New York: Routledge (105-120).
Buhaug, Halvard (2017) Food insecurity and political instability, in Dahlhaus, Nora; & Daniela Weißkopf, editors, Future Scenarios for Global Cooperation – Practices and Challenges. Duisburg: Center for Research on Global Cooperation (105-112).

Journal article without peer review

Popular article

PRIO Policy Note

PRIO paper

Report – Other

Report – External series


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