Climate Change and Violent Conflicts

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Is there a link between climate change and violent conflicts, particularly in poverty-stricken communities in Syria and Africa?

In the article, ‘Climate adaptation could make the world more peaceful’, Daniel Pearson writes that the African communities living around Lake Chad are living below the poverty line, have little or no access to information and technology, lacking employment opportunities, experiencing political marginalisation and isolation (Pearson, 2019).

According to the Lake Chad Risk Assessment Project report, these stressors make their young people vulnerable to recruitment by militant groups such as Boko Haram.

To make matters worse, the pressures these communities are already facing will be further compounded by the consequences of climate change, according to the Adelphi report ( Vivekananda, J., Pohl, B., Rüttinger, L. et al., 2019).

Vivekananda, J., Pohl, B., Rüttinger, L. et al. (2019) say that in late 2017, the Lake Chad basin faced a humanitarian crisis with around 10.7 million people that needed immediate humanitarian assistance. 80-90% of their population highly dependent on agriculture, fish, and livestock for their livelihoods.

Former US president Barrack Obama once said that the world is becoming hungrier and more violent due to Global Warming (Pearson 2019).

The video that Adelphi, Berlin published shows the people in Lake Chad going through hardships and how climate change is factored into the growing regional conflicts and violence.

Although scientific literature does not provide a direct link between climate change and conflict, there are a ‘number of social-political and economic issues that are mediating the impacts of climate change, making any links dependent on them’ (Pearson, 2019).

A study, “Climate Variability, food production” says earlier research shows a relationship between climate anomalies and violent conflict. Climate anomalies refer to drought-induced agricultural shocks and the resulting negative economic situation that follows. This study concludes that:

  • Food price shocks are linked with increased social unrest. These social protests and rebellions in times of food price spikes are reactions to poor and unjust government policies, corruption, repression and market failure.
  • Although this study does not show a direct link between climate variability on political violence, this should not be treated as a dismissal of the possible link between food insecurity and social unrest. Because the study does not consider how the changes in international food supply and prices affect domestic food insecurity in vulnerable societies and to what extent political leaders are willing to implement effective countermeasures.
  • Food insecurity and conflict have a “reverse relationship” where armed conflict is developed in reverse, and civil war is the most important driver of malnourishment and hunger in Africa today.
  • Chronic violence and political instability threaten human security and make them more vulnerable to harsh environmental conditions, resulting in a massive refugee crisis.
  • Climate change is predicted to worsen environmental conditions hindering agricultural productivity across the African continent.

The report “Shoring Up Stability” also discusses the role of climate change in communities torn by conflicts. The report shows how “climate change and conflict create a feedback loop” where climate change adds additional pressures and conflicts hinder the community’s coping abilities. 

The report concludes that climate change needs to be addressed as part of peacebuilding efforts and humanitarian aid if communities must be freed from the conflict trap ( Vivekananda, J., Wall M. et al., 2019).


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

Vivekananda, J., Pohl, B., Rüttinger, L., Wall, M., Wolfmaier, S., Schaller, S., & Schulz, K. (2019). Lake Chad Risk Assessment Project. Adelphi. Retrieved from

Adelphi, Berlin. (2019, July 15). Climate change is a critical factor in Lake Chad crisis conflict trap – ‘Shoring Up Stability” report. Retrieved from

Buhaug, H., Benjaminsen, T., (2015, December 22). Climate variability, food production shocks, and violent conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa. IOP Publishing Ltd. Environmental Research Letters, Volume 10, Number 12. Retrieved from

Vivekananda, J., Wall, M., Sylvestre, F., Nagarajan, C. (2019, May 15). Shoring Up Stability. Addressing Climate and Fragility Risks in the Lake Chad Region. [PDF File]. Retrieved from

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