Climate-related disasters heighten the risk of conflict around the world, according to new research.
Armed violence is likely to rise amid drought, heatwaves, and other crises, particularly in countries that are already fractured along ethnic lines, finds a new report from Germany’s Potsdam Institute, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Analyzing data on armed conflict from 1980-2010, the researchers found a global coincidence rate of nine percent “regarding armed-conflict outbreak and disaster occurrence such as heat waves or droughts,” but when looking only at “ethnically highly fractionalized countries,” the coincidence rate shot to nearly 23 percent.
The report states:
Although we do not report evidence that climate-related disasters act as direct triggers of armed conflicts, 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.
“It’s significant that you can make that statement—that nearly 25 percent of those conflicts coincided with some type of climate-related disaster,” lead author Jonathan Donges told Climate Central.
“What’s much more important is that this number is highly statistically significant and robust,” he said. “You cannot explain it by chance.”
The findings are particularly important for countries on the frontlines of both conflict and climate change, such as Syria or Afghanistan, where shortages of food and water and armed violence occur consistently, the researchers say.
Climate Central reports: