Climate Change, Jihadism and Policy Failures in the Sahel

On the 22 November 2017, the Subcommittee on Security and Defence in the European Parliament held a public hearing on the ‘The Security Dimension of Climate Change – What Implications for EU Common Security and Defence Policy?’.

I was one of three invited speakers at this event, and talked about ‘Climate Security in the Sahel’. Based on several case studies of land-use conflicts in Mali, I expressed general scepticism to the idea that climate change is a key driver of conflicts in the Sahel.

First of all, the Sahel has become greener since the droughts of the 1980s. Therefore, land-use conflicts are not necessarily driven by increasing scarcity. Instead, they have political and historical causes, such as the marginalisation of pastoralists and corruption. Pastoralists are losing access to key dry season pastures and their livestock corridors are increasingly being blocked. This creates conflicts between farmers and herders. In addition, rent-seeking among government officials undermines people’s trust in government institutions, which leads people to take action on their own.Read More

Climate, Peace and Security

Despite rapid scientific progress, firm knowledge about the societal consequences of global warming remains limited.

  • What are the implications of climate change for peace and security?
  • Should we expect more wars and more political instability as the world heats up?

The real concerns linked to climate change are not about shrinking glaciers, eroding coastlines, or changes in precipitation patterns. Nor, strictly speaking, are they about coral bleaching, phenological changes, or species migration.

The primary grounds for concern relate to the consequences these physical changes will have for societal development and prosperity, including human well-being and physical security.

It is somewhat discomforting, then, that there is considerably deeper scientific understanding of the impacts humans have on the climate system than of the effects of climate change on human activity.

The Arab Spring showed that higher bread prices made it easier to mobilize mass resistance to governing regimes. Picture from Tahrir square in Egypt. Photo: Aschevogel / Creative Commons / Flickr

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Welcome to the Climate & Conflict Blog

The Climate & Conflict blog publishes updates from relevant PRIO-based research, as well as general reflections on security dimensions of climate and environmental change, written by PRIO scholars and selected guest contributors.

PRIO presently hosts three research projects that jointly have an overarching goal of addressing the relationship between climate and conflict: CAVE, CLIMSEC, and CROP. Some of the questions these projects ask are: How does agricultural productivity relate to conflict risk? Under what circumstances does extreme weather events affect political stability? What are the main scientific challenges and knowledge gaps that need to be addressed in order to better prepare for the future?

Climate change constitutes a significant threat to human security, but the research community to date has failed to uncover robust causal patterns between environmental change and armed conflict. Just like the nature and extent of environmental change vary across regions, so do societies’ sensitivity to these changes. Our research is dedicated to disentangling such conditional and indirect causal processes because we believe that rigorous, nuanced, and evidence-based knowledge is necessary to device effective policies for minimizing adverse social impacts of climate change.

On this blog, you will find updated information on publications, events, and activities of relevance to environmental security research. We encourage you to join the discussion and leave a comment in the comments field.