Apr 2015 – Mar 2018
Climate Anomalies and Violent Environments (CAVE) seeks to understand how climate variability affects dynamics of political violence. In the past few years, rising food prices and the global financial downturn have increased the ranks of the world's food insecure to over a billion. The food crises in 2007-08 and 2011 spurred demonstrations, riots and political turmoil in a high number of countries across the globe. High food prices, driven partly by adverse weather conditions, are frequently cited as a key ingredient in the cocktail of motivations underlying the "Arab Spring" uprisings. However, the scientific community is yet to reach consensus on specific links between climate and political violence and has thus far studied climate-conflict linkages in relative simple and direct manners.
CAVE seeks to extend and improve current knowledge on the relationship between climate variability and political violence. The project is guided by the following overarching research question: How does climate variability affect dynamics of political violence? This question will be addressed through the accomplishment of three key objectives, each of which forms the basis for a work package (see below):
(1) Understand how climate variability interacts with land use changes in affecting political violence
(2) Understand how food security impacts of climate variability affect political violence
(3) Understand how economic impacts of climate variability affect political violence
CAVE adopts a mixed methods approach, combining rigorous statistical analysis at various levels of aggregation with qualitative in-depth analysis of selected cases. In order to better capture plausible climate-conflict dynamics at a local level, the project will build on recent methodological advances in geographic information systems (GIS) technology and new geo-referenced data. Much of the empirical work will center on Sub-Saharan Africa, where social vulnerability to climate extremes is most apparent and other conflict-promoting conditions are most widespread.
This three-year research project (April 2015 – March 2018) is funded by the FRIPRO program within the Research Council of Norway. The project brings together researchers and institutions from Norway and abroad, with Halvard Buhaug (project leader) from PRIO; Ole Magnus Theisen from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology; Tor A. Benjaminsen from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences; Clionadh Raleigh from the University of Sussex, Eric Neumayer from the London School of Economics and Political Science. The researcher team further involves three associate PhD candidates: Ida Rudolfsen at PRIO and Uppsala University; Hanne Seter at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and Nina von Uexküll at Uppsala University, in addition to research assistance from Karim Baghat and Elisabeth Lio Rosvold at PRIO.
The project will be organized into three complementary work packages:
The first work package addresses how climate variability interacts with land use changes in affecting political violence. Large parts of rural Africa are suffering from increasing land pressure due to a convergence of adverse trends, such as climate change, population growth, land use changes, land acquisition by international actors, carbon forestry, as well as processes of land conversions related to cropland expansion, expansion of urban areas, and establishment of new administrative boundaries. In the absence of good governance these converging trends further increase the risk of conflict over use of rural land. Work package 1 studies how climate variability combines with other drivers of land pressure such as population growth and land acquisition in affecting outcomes such as political violence, land-use disputes and local food- and livelihood security.
The second work package seeks to understand how food security impacts of climate variability affect political violence. Two primary pathways through which climate-induced food insecurity influences peace and stability are identified: First, drought, heat waves, and other extreme weather events have the potential to exert significant impacts on food prices. In the recent global food crises, failing harvest among some of the world's major food exporters contributed to a dramatic increase in the international price of many food commodities. Second, whether climate anomalies will translate into human insecurity depends on the vulnerability of the agricultural systems and its capacity to cope with adverse changes.
Work package 2 explores these causal channels empirically. Prioritized objectives will be to assess to what extent global fluctuations in food commodity prices affect political instability; and to determine the role of agricultural sensitivity in mediating local climate-violence connections. Further, we will study differences among food producers and consumers in vulnerable societies in terms of coping capacity and resilience. Work package 2 will move beyond the current research frontier by considering a wide range of possible insecurity outcomes, including urban demonstrations and riots, one-sided violence, communal clashes, and coups d'état.
The third work package explores how economic impacts of climate variability affect political violence and other insecurity outcomes. A novel contribution in this regard is the decoupling of general economic performance from agricultural performance and the explicit consideration of alternative causal mechanisms of an indirect climate-conflict relationship besides agricultural income.
Even among countries with a small agricultural sector, climate variability can have economic implications through its impact on tourism, trade, and investments. Hence, work package 3 will particularly address whether climate affect political violence via other economic transmission mechanisms than agriculture. The effects of past climate change on shifts in tourism-related incomes and investments will further be studied. Finally, we will evaluate whether local economic impacts of natural disasters affect political violence by drawing on new and precise geocoded data on natural disasters and the economic and human losses incurred, combined with other relevant geo-referenced socio-political and conflict data.
Three PRIO researchers are among the 721 experts invited to participate as lead authors and editors in the IPCC's Sixth Assessment Report (AR6).
A new version of the Urban Social Disorder (USD) dataset is now available, featuring a longer time-span and vastly expanded set of cities across the developing world, making it one of the longest historical event datasets for conflict and protest data for the cities that it covers.
Hanne Seter successfully defended her doctoral thesis today, 21 April, at the Faculty of Social and Educational Sciences at the Norwegian University of Science and Technolog (NTNU). The title of the thesis is “Climate variability and conflict”
We are proud to congratulate two young PRIO scholars, who are on top of the list for the Jacek Kugler Political Demography and Geography Student Paper Award, which is awarded at the ISA conference starting in Baltimore tomorrow.
The winner of this year's award is Ida Rudolfsen with her paper “Igniting the Fire? State Institutions, Food Price Shocks and Urban Unrest”, which was considered the best graduate student paper within the Political Demography and Geography Section presented at last year's ISA conference.
The runner-up is Jonas Nordkvelle with his paper “Randomized Rain Falls on Political Groups: Discovering an Average Causal Effect of Climate Variability on Armed Conflict Onsets”.
She has received an ERC Consolidator grant for the project VERSUS - Violence, Elites and Resilience in States under Stress, which will start up later this year.This grant follows an ERC starting grant, which was focused on African conflict patterns generated from examining ACLED data. The new project is about investigating governments, political elites, their interactions and networks. It will create information on local to national powerholders, and focus on how instability emerges from domestic political relationships.
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.
Severe drought is associated with an increased incidence of armed conflict among agriculture-dependent populations in the least developed states. By strengthening the political status and economic well-being of such marginalized groups, conflict risk can be reduced. This is a key finding of a study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) by a team of researchers from Uppsala University and PRIO.
On Friday 23 September, Nina von Uexkull was awarded a doctoral degree in peace and conflict research at Uppsala University. Nina, who is associated with the Climate Anomalies and Violent Environments (CAVE) project at PRIO, wrote a thesis on 'Climate, conflict, and coping capacity: The impact of climate variability on organized violence.' Members of the evaluation committee included Håvard Hegre and former PRIO Director Dan Smith, with Prof. Jack A. Goldstone as the appointed examiner. Congratulations!
The latest version of the PRIO-GRID is now available at grid.prio.org, featuring several new dimensions and types of data, making it one of the best standardized platforms for visualization and analysis of conflict data.
Journal Article in Terrorism and Political Violence
Journal Article in World Development
Journal Article in Current Climate Change Report
Journal Article in The Journal of Peasant Studies
PRIO Policy Brief
Journal Article in Current Climate Change Reports
Journal Article in Civil Wars
Book Chapter in States and Peoples in Conflict
Journal Article in Climatic Change
Journal Article in Political Geography
Journal Article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Book Chapter in What Do We Know About Civil Wars?
Journal Article in Political Geography
Journal Article in Environmental Research Letters
Journal Article in WIREs Climate Change