Will climate change cause wars?

Will climate change be the primary cause of war between two nations? Not likely. Can the impacts of climate change increase the likelihood of conflict? Research increasingly suggests this is a possibility, and in some instances has already occurred. However, conflict is the result of a multitude of factors – existing grievances, mismanagement of resources, erosion of the social contract between a state and its public, demographic change, economic disparities, etc. So climate change will not likely be the only, or even primary cause of any conflict. Climate change can increase the likelihood of conflict and instability through interacting with other existing stressors – such as food, water and energy insecurity. These stresses can contribute to unrest, the displacement of populations, and other dynamics than can increase the likelihood of a conflict occurring. A lack of capacity to manage climate risks can also make a nation more fragile and conflict-prone. Though there is evidence suggesting that climate change has been a factor in certain sub-national conflicts, more research is needed to disentangle correlation and causality. However, given the unprecedented changes to the climate currently underway, the historical record is not a sufficient foundation for predicting the role that climate change might play in future conflicts. In this context, future simulations, foresight exercises, and a more nuanced understanding of the interconnections between demographic pressures, natural resources and state stability, will be increasingly important to governments and societies wishing to plan for the effects of climate change on the security environment.

Read more:

2015: Seed of War: Global warming helped trigger Syria’s bloody civil war. Andrew Freedman
2014: Topic Guide: Conflict, Climate and Environment. Peters, K. and J. Vivekananda, ODI and International Alert
2014: USAID: Climate Change and Conflict, Findings and Lessons Learned from Five Case Studies in Seven Countries
2014: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability: IPCC Working Group II Contribution to AR5
2014: Climate Change and Security in Africa: Clear Risks, Nuanced Impacts. Moran, A, Mulugetta, Y., Raleigh, C., GMACCC
2014: Can Natural Disasters Precipitate Peace? Egorova, A. and Hendrix, C. CCAPS
2013: The Arab Spring and Climate Change. Werrell, C. and Femia, F. Center for Climate and Security, CAP, The Stimson Center.
2013: Backdraft: The Conflict Potential of Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation. Dabelko, G. et al. Woodrow Wilson Center.
2013: Climate Change, Conflict and Certainty: New Research in Context, Center for Climate and Security
Climate Change, Migration, and Conflict in Northwest Africa Rising Dangers and Policy Options Across the Arc of Tension. Werz, M. and Conley, L. Center for American Progress and Heinrich Böll Stiftung
2012: Special Issue: Climate Change and Conflict. Journal of Peace Research.
2012: Climate Change, Migration, and Conflict, Werz, Conley, Center for American Progress and Heinrich Böll Stiftung
2011: Conflicts Associated with the Global Climate. Hsiang, Meng & Cane. Presentation, Woodrow Wilson Center
2010: Climate change and conflict: Working Paper. A framework for analysis and action. Campbell, I. London: Saferworld.
2007: A climate of conflict. The links between climate change, war and peace. Smith, Dan and Janani Vivekananda.  London: International Alert.
2007: Climate Change, Human Security and Violent Conflict. Barnett, J. Adger, W. N. Political Geography 26 (2007) 639-655.
2002: German Ministry for the Environment 2002: Climate Change and Conflict