Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States
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Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States

Edited by Graham K. Brown and Arnim Langer

The Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States brings together contributions from a multidisciplinary group of internationally renowned scholars on such important issues as the causes of violent conflicts and state fragility, the challenges of conflict resolution and mediation, and the obstacles to post-conflict reconstruction and durable peace-building.
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Chapter 9: Climate change and armed conflict

Ole Magnus Theisen, Nils Petter Gleditsch and Halvard Buhaug


A number of high-profile individuals, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and policy reports have put forward alarmist claims about the impact of climate change on human security. For example, US President Barack Obama (2009) has declared that ‘[t]here is little scientific dispute that if we do nothing, we will face more drought, more famine, more mass displacement–all of which will fuel more conflict for decades’. Yet, the empirical foundation for a general relationship between resource scarcity and armed conflict is indicative at best and numerous questions regarding proposed associations between climate change and conflict remain unanswered (Nordås and Gleditsch 2007; Gleditsch 2012). Major limitations in data and research designs make it difficult to conclude firmly one way or the other. In this chapter, we assess how factors such as political and economic instability, inequality, poverty, social fragmentation, migration as well as inappropriate responses may affect the link between climate change and conflict. Then, we review the empirical literature. We conclude with some recommendations for future research.

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