Beyond Environmental Scarcity: Causal Pathways to Conflict

Journal article

Hauge, Wenche Iren & Tanja Ellingsen (1998) Beyond Environmental Scarcity: Causal Pathways to Conflict, Journal of Peace Research 35 (3): 299–317.

Replication datasets available

A great deal of recent writing has indicated that growing scarcities of renewable resources can contribute to conflict. Most of this research, however, suffers from two major methodological weaknesses: lack of variation in the independent and dependent variables, and the absence of control for other conflict-generating factors. As one of the first large-N studies of the relationship between environmental degradation and domestic armed conflict, this article takes on these challenges. On the basis of a multivariate analysis for all countries in the period 1980-92 we test and confirm the hypotheses (as indicated from various case-studies) that factors like deforestation, land degradation, and scarce supply of freshwater, alone and in combination with high population density, increase the risk of domestic armed conflict, especially low-level conflict. This holds true also when we control for economic and political factors, such as level of economic development and type of political regime. The latter variables, however, prove more decisive than environmental scarcity in predicting the incidence of domestic armed conflict. The severity of such conflicts is better accounted for by military expenditure than by environmental degradation, poverty or non-democratic rule.

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