Climate Change and Conflict: A Critical Overview

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Gleditsch, Nils Petter & Ragnhild Nordås (2009) Climate Change and Conflict: A Critical Overview, Die Friedens-Warte 84(2): 11–28.

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​The world is generally becoming more peaceful, but the debate on climate change raises the specter of a new source of instability and conflict. However, there is little systematic research on the security implications of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has summarized the science of climate change, based on thousands of peer-reviewed studies, but its scenarios for the social implications are much less certain and its few statements on the security implications are largely based on outdated or irrelevant sources. In this area, the debate on the policy implications is running well ahead of its academic foundation. This article outlines some plausible scenarios for how climate change might influence conflict through mechanisms like an increased frequency of natural disasters, sea-level rise, and droughts, particularly when they interact with stagnating development and poor governance. The tentative conclusion is that there is little cause for invoking apocalyptic scenarios, but that local conflicts may well add to the burden of underdevelopment affecting many countries in the third world.

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