Can Climate Adaptation Promote Peace?

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Can climate adaptation bring peace to areas that are experiencing conflicts and poverty?

This is the subject of Daniel Pearson’s article, “Climate adaptation could make the world more peaceful.” He observes that climate adaptation is becoming increasingly crucial in poor countries suffering the impacts of climate change.

Some salient points that Pearson mentioned in his article:

  • Climate adaptation includes actions that help us cope with the negative consequences of change, such as building sea walls to protect against storm surges and rising sea levels or using drought-resistant crops for prolonged dry seasons.
  • These actions are crucial in areas experiencing food insecurity and conflicts such as in Syria and East Africa.
  • People most affected are those living in poverty, no access to technology and information, and isolated, politically or religiously marginalised and climate extremes can fuel these conflicts such as droughts or insufficient rains causing food insecurity.

In her article, “Will climate adaptation move us toward peace?” Christie Nicoson says that climate adaptation has been praised for its potential for contributing to peace and policymakers and practitioners has been integrating climate change actions into their peacebuilding works (Nicoson, 2018).

She claims that climate change hinders development as well as increase vulnerabilities and insecurities. It is also a threat multiplier in a sense that it adds to the already existing pressures that the communities are facing like conflicts, post-conflict scenarios, poverty among many others. Imagine these communities facing floods, droughts, diseases caused by climate change in addition to their already existing predicaments (Nicoson, 2018).

So how does climate adaptation lead to peace?

Vulnerable people and communities benefit from climate adaptation when measures will protect them from the impacts of climate change, Nicoson points out.

Explaining further, she said that climate adaptation involves:

  • transformation of human and natural systems through structural, physical, institutional and social changes to avoid climate change consequences.
  • responding to or anticipating projected or actual climatic changes, and taking steps to implement appropriate protections, reduce adverse impacts, or take advantage of potential opportunities.
  • infrastructural and institutional developments, agricultural and pastoral adjustments, or migration. Many of these strategies are intended to reduce vulnerability to natural hazards.

Climate adaptation and peace

Environmental issues can provide opportunities to strengthen cooperation and peacebuilding; water and natural resources management as an opportunity for peacebuilding and cooperation as well as support post-conflict recovery especially in preventing renewed violence that stems from natural resource conflicts (Nicoson, 2018).

Nicoson mentions several examples of climate adaptation programs in Rwanda that has an impact on their lifestyle, economics, and environment. These are:

  • Climate adaptation is done through improved climate information systems, increased capacity for prevention and preparedness, and increased public awareness among many others. 
  • Also, providing agricultural training and knowledge to people for example in improving the quality of soil and preventing erosion.
  • These climate adaptation measures have provided positive impacts in the community because it rehabilitated their land, established sustained livelihoods, and improved their well-being (Nicoson, 2018).

Another study, “Climate security and a vulnerability model for conflict prevention” also tackles how climate change adaptation can offset climate-related conflicts.

The study says that links between conflict and climate change involve complex interactions while there are many factors that help mediate the impacts of climate change.

The study reviewed several related works of literature on climate-conflict and climate adaptation and has come up with the following conclusions:

  • There is a pattern or link between climate-conflict and climate adaption and there is a potential for adaptation as a pathway for the prevention of conflicts.
  • Vulnerability (exposure, sensitivity, and capacity to adapt) as a key in understanding the relationship between climate adaptation and conflict prevention and a subject for future research.

In countries heavily dependent on agriculture and farming, disruptions in the form of climate variability and conflicts can have great consequences. The resulting food insecurity can add pressure to the already volatile situation that vulnerable communities live in.

However, through the implementation of climate adaptation programs that restores and/or protects their agriculture, farming, and water sources can help alleviate the situation and thus can be a significant tool to promoting peace as studies and related literature have shown.


Pearson, D. (2019, December 4). Climate adaptation could make the world more peaceful. Word Economic Forum. Retrieved from

Nicoson, C. (2018, October 18). Will climate adaptation move us toward peace?. PRIO Climate & Conflict. Retrieved from

Pearson, D., Newman, P. (2019). Climate security and a vulnerability model for conflict prevention: a systematic literature review focusing on African agriculture. Sustain Earth 2, 2 (2019) doi:10.1186/s42055-019-0009-6 Retrieved from

PHOTO CREDIT: Children in a Rwandan primary school by RudolfSimon – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link. The photo size has been altered to fit the website requirement and we have added the caption.

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