PRIO Spearheads New Climate-Conflict Project


13 December 2016

PRIO Spearheads New Climate-Conflict Project

​​The project will focus on the causal connection between adverse environmental change and discrete social upheavals, with examples including the ongoing civil war in Syria and the early Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

​The new project, led by Research Professor Halvard Buhaug and titled Quantifying Conflict Risks of Agricultural Productivity Changes (CROP), has been awarded an 8 million NOK budget from the Research Council of Norway.

In addition to Buhaug, PRIO staff and affiliates make up most of the project participants; Jonas Nordkvelle, Elisabeth Lio Rosvold, Nina von Uexkull, Håvard Hegre, Ida Rudolfsen and Andrew Linke.

The project will run from April 2017 until March 2020. Below is a summary of the project and its objectives.

CROP: Quantifying Conflict Risk of Agricultural Productivity Changes

A recent wave of societal upheavals across the Middle East and beyond has accentuated concerns that adverse climatic conditions increase conflict risk. A simple and sweeping climate-conflict effect is not likely but climate variability and extremes can have powerful indirect and conditional effects on political violence. The most plausible mechanism linking these phenomena is adverse agricultural production changes. Yet, little is known about the conditions under which this causal pathway is most likely to materialize. The CROP project addresses this research lacuna head-on. It will be guided by following research challenges:

(i) Identify key conditions exacerbating the conflict potential of agricultural production changes

(ii) Simulate implications of alternative a scenarios for future conflict risk

The project will move beyond the research frontier along three dimensions, by explicitly (a) accounting for contexts within which negative agricultural production changes are most likely to result in violent conflict; (b) accounting for the relevant social actors involved (rural producers, urban consumers); and (c) evaluating the implications of uncovered patterns for future conflict risk through out-of-sample validations and forecasting along state-of-the-art socioeconomic and climate change-related scenarios.