Civil conflict sensitivity to growing-season drought

Understanding the conflict potential of drought is critical for dealing effectively with the societal implications of climate change. Using new georeferenced ethnicity and conflict data for Asia and Africa since 1989, we present an actor-oriented analysis of growing-season drought and conflict involvement among ethnic groups. Results from naive models common in previous research suggest that drought generally has little impact. However, context-sensitive models accounting for the groups’ level of vulnerability reveal that drought can contribute to sustaining conflict, especially for agriculturally dependent groups and politically excluded groups in very poor countries. These results suggest a reciprocal nature–society interaction in which violent conflict and environmental shock constitute a vicious circle, each phenomenon increasing the group’s vulnerability to the other.

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