On Climate Variability and Civil War in Asia

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Wischnath, Gerdis & Halvard Buhaug (2014) On Climate Variability and Civil War in Asia, Climatic Change 122(4): 709–721.

​Effects of climate change are frequently claimed to be responsible for widespread civil violence. Yet, scientists remain divided on this issue, and recent studies suggest that conflict risk increases with higher rainfall, loss of rainfall, higher temperatures or none of the above. Lack of scientific consensus is driven by differences in data, methods, and samples, but may also reflect a fragile and inconsistent correlation for the habitual spatiotemporal domain, Sub Saharan Africa post-1980. This study presents a comprehensive, multi-scale empirical evaluation of climate-conflict connections across Asia, the continent with the highest conflict rate per country. We find little evidence that interannual climate variability and anomalies are linked to historical conflict risk in the simple and general manner proposed by some earlier research. Although a significant parameter coefficient can be obtained under certain specifications, the direction and magnitude of the climate effects are inconsistent and sensitive to research design. Instead, Asian civil wars share central features with violent events elsewhere, proving the main correlates of contemporary armed conflict to be economic and socio-political rather than climatological.

An appendix is available for download

Article available as open access at Springer.com