A climate of conflict

The links between climate change, peace and war

Climate change is upon us and its physical effects have started to unfold. That is the broad scientific consensus expressed in the Fourth Assessment Review of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change. This report takes this finding as its starting point and looks at the social and human consequences that are likely to ensue – particularly the risks of conflict and instability.

Hardest hit by climate change will be people living in poverty, in under-developed and unstable states, under poor governance. The effect of the physical consequences – such as more frequent extreme weather, melting glaciers, and shorter growing seasons – will add to the pressures under which those societies already live. The background of poverty and bad governance means many of these communities both have a low capacity to adapt to climate change and face a high risk of violent conflict.

Many of the world’s poorest countries and communities thus face a double-headed problem: that of climate change and violent conflict.