Armed conflict within nations has had disastrous humanitarian consequences throughout much of the world. This paper seeks to undertake the first comprehensive examination of the potential impact of global climate change on armed conflict in sub-Saharan Africa. It asserts that it finds strong historical linkages between civil war and temperature in Africa with warmer years leading to significant increases in the likelihood of war.
The author's offer a number of findings including:
More than two-thirds of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa have experienced civil conflict since 1960
There is also accumulating evidence on the potentially disruptive effects of climate change on human enterprise - such as through possible declines in global food production
Climate change will worsen instability in already volatile regions
Despite a growing research effort, however, linkages between climate change and conflict remain uncertain.
Given that African countries remain highly dependent on rain-fed agriculture for both employment and economic production, with agriculture accounting for more than 50% of gross domestic product and up to 90% of employment across much of the continent.
The paper's conclusions include:
Because the vast majority of poor African households are rural, and because the poorest of these typically derive their income from agricultural activities, temperature-related yield declines can have serious economic consequences for both agricultural households and entire societies that depend heavily on agriculture
Because economic welfare is the single factor most consistently associated with conflict incidence in both cross-country and within-country studies it appears likely that the variation in agricultural performance is the central mechanism linking warming to conflict in Africa. However, the possibility that significant warming can increase the incidents of civil war has a number of public policy implications:
if temperature is primarily affecting conflict via shocks to future importance of agriculture in African livelihoods governments, aid donors could help reduce conflict risk in Africa by improving the ability of African agriculture to deal with extreme heat
implementing insurance schemes to protect poor societies from adverse climate shocks also could help reduce the risk of civil war in Africa
making the provision of foreign aid contingent on climate risk indicators ‘‘rapid conflict prevention support’’ could bolster local economic conditions when the risk of violence is high.