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A climate of conflict

Publication date:
D. Smith
Type of publication:

Climate change is upon us and its physical effects have started to unfold. This report takes such findings, expressed in the Forth Assessment Review of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, as its starting point and looks at the social and human consequences that are likely to ensue – particularly the risks of conflict and instability. The report argues that those hardest hit by climate change will be people living in poverty, in underdeveloped and unstable states and under poor governance. Such communities have a low capacity to adapt to the physical consequences of climate change and face a high risk of violent conflict.
The paper asserts that there are 46 countries - home to 2.7 billion people - in which the effects of climate change interacting with economic, social and political problems will create a high risk of violent conflict. In a second group of 56 countries, the report argues, the institutions of government will have great difficulty in taking the strain of climate change on top of all their current challenges, thus increasing the risk of political instability and the potential of violent conflict in the longer term. Arguing that it is too late to believe the situation can be made safe solely by reducing carbon emissions worldwide and mitigating climate change, the report asserts that what is required now is for states and communities to adapt to handle the challenges posed by climate change. In conclusion, the following twelve recommendations are given for addressing climate change in fragile states:

Move the issue of conflict and climate change higher up the international political agenda
Research the indirect local consequences of climate change
Develop and spread research competence
Improve knowledge and generate policy through dialogue
Prioritise adaptation over mitigation in fragile states
Develop the right institutional context: good governance for climate change
Prepare to manage migration
Ensure National Adaptation Plans of Action are conflict-sensitive
Climate-proof peacebuilding and development
Engage the private sector
Link together international frameworks of action
Promote regional cooperation on adaptation