Five years after the European migration and refugee crisis, displacement remains a pressing issue worldwide. According to the UNHCR, the global number of forcibly displaced people passed 80 million during 2020 – the highest estimate ever recorded. Several factors have contributed to this increase, including a rise in political violence and instability, extreme weather events, and – most recently – knock-on effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. With adverse impacts of climate change increasingly unfolding in real-time, concerns are mounting that the world will see a dramatic increase in migration in coming decades.
The last decade was the warmest on record, with 2020 tied with 2016 for the all-time high average annual global temperature. This 10-year period also saw armed conflicts at severity levels not seen since the Cold War era. Could there be a causal link between these trends?
To the frustration of policymakers and laymen alike, empirical research has been unable to provide a simple and coherent answer to this question. Instead, studies of climate-conflict connections have for a long time continued to produce diverging findings and – occasionally – inspired heated debates. So, where do we stand?Read More
Anthropogenic climate change poses unprecedented threats to socio-ecological systems, affecting the lives of millions of people around the world. Among others, global warming has resulted in an increased frequency, intensity and duration of extremes, such as heatwaves, droughts and heavy precipitations. Climate-related impacts include alteration of ecosystems, disruption of food production and water supply, damage to infrastructure and settlements, increased morbidity and mortality, and potential implications for mental health and human well-being.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee named this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, recognizing the World Food Program (WFP) for “for its efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict.”
According to the World Food Program’s (WFP) latest report, the COVID-19 pandemic will lead to an 82 percent increase in global food insecurity, affecting around 270 million people by the end of the year. On June 29, the organization announced it is undertaking its largest humanitarian effort to assist an increasing number of food-insecure low- and middle-income countries. In a statement about the plan, WFP Executive Director David Beasley said that “until the day we have a medical vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos. Without it, we could see increased social unrest and protests, a rise in migration, deepening conflict, and widespread under-nutrition among populations that were previously immune from hunger.”
Why is the pandemic leading to more food insecurity? And why is David Beasley talking about social unrest and protest in connection with food?
The recently concluded UN Millennium Development Goals framework documented significant progress (although not complete success) in halving the proportion of people suffering from hunger by 2015, compared to 1990. However, in the most recent years, the global rate of undernourishment has again been on the rise. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the main cause of this retrogression is escalating violence in war-affected areas. Making matters worse, the human cost of war is sometimes compounded by climate shocks, most notably drought.
‘Big data’ analytics – the collection and analysis of large amounts of data – is having a transformative impact on scientific research across disciplines. Although there is no single and consistent definition, there are three commonly agreed upon indicators of big data, the three ‘V’s: volume, velocity and variety. Volume refers to the massive amounts of data, velocity to the constant production and stream of data and variety to its unstructured nature. Machine learning (ML; initially teaching computers to learn and process information to ultimately perform tasks without out the need for further instruction) is a popular tool used, making connections and findings faster than humans.
There is no simple and unquestionable causal link between climate change and conflict. The Nobel Committee should take note of this.
With two special reports (here and here) released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) just after the summer, the awareness of the consequences of climate change and the measures needed to limit these impacts is higher than ever before. Regrettably, there is not a one-to-one relationship between responsibility and consequences, and the burden will be much larger for the already disadvantaged Global South.