Journal of Human Rights and the Environment

Does climate change kill people in Darfur?

Lyal S Sunga * *

Keywords: climate change, Darfur, ethnic armed conflict, empirical data, vulnerability


The author argues that the relationship between climate change and the deaths in Darfur is less direct than some accounts suggest. While ‘ontological vulnerability’ theory is not without promise for understanding the relationship between climate change and its effects on human populations, the theory requires supplementation with the kind of empirical work reflected in vulnerability and adaptation science. The author suggests that existing international legal arrangements offer a well-established, accepted and universal normative, theoretical and practical framework to help understand and address the relationship between climate change and human well-being in general and between climate change and the outbreak of ethnic armed conflict in particular.

Author Notes

Lyal S Sunga was Coordinator of the UN Human Rights Council's Group of Experts on Darfur in 2007. This article is based on my expert panel presentation at the 15th Humanitarian Conference held in Geneva on 18–19 February 2010, hosted by Webster University. I wish to thank Ilaria Bottigliero and Thomas McInerney, both of the International Development Law Organization (Rome), and Paul S Sunga of Langara College (Vancouver), for their very helpful comments on an earlier draft. I also wish to thank Karen Morrow and Anna Grear, editors of this Journal, for providing me with very thoughtful and stimulating comments and suggestions, particularly on the ‘ontological vulnerability’ debate section of this article.

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