Climate Change

What's the connection between climate change and violent unrest?

A new research explains how food shortages induced by climate change increase the risk of unrest in countries

By DTE Staff
Published: Wednesday 19 July 2017

A new research has found that climate-induced food insecurity increases the risk of unrest in a nation. This link was established by analysing the effect of food insecurity and state vulnerability on the occurrence of violent uprisings in Africa. The study was published in the Journal of Peace Research.

“These results demonstrate what is already becoming apparent in many areas around the world: extreme weather threatens agricultural production, which in turn triggers unrest on the part of people confronted with sudden surges in food prices and/or food shortages. This kind of instability and unrest certainly imperils the security of countries that experience it, but may also pose regional or international challenges should that instability spread,” explained Benjamin T Jones, an author of the research paper.

Burkina Faso, Madagascar, Nigeria, and Sudan were some of the most vulnerable African countries as per the analysis of data collected over two decades.

“Countries that are more susceptible to unrest, based on our calculations, are those with the following characteristics: incoherent domestic political institutions, poorer countries with less diversified economies, and those more dependent on agricultural production,” Jones told Down To Earth.

To reduce the risk a country faces, the researchers suggest a two-pronged approach that combats the impact of climate variability on food insecurity and strengthens government institutions.

Reducing a country’s vulnerability to food insecurity can avoid violence. According to Jones, this means developing the capacity to provide food aid to offset shortages, but over the longer term, a host of initiatives ranging from improving government capacity and efficacy, to investing in “green growth” initiatives to help bolster economic growth and encourage greater resilience in the face of a changing climate. Such a two-pronged approach, the research suggests, can combat the impact of climate variability.

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