Guest essay by Eric Worrall
The Conversation has published details of a study which casts doubt on the climate change = conflict narrative. The main cause of conflict turns out to be the failure of political systems.
Climate change is not a key cause of conflict, finds new study
April 24, 2018 11.21pm AEST
“The Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis”, wrote the then-UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon back in 2007, about an ongoing war which arose, he said, “at least in part from climate change”. Since then the idea that climate change has caused and will cause human conflict and mass migrations has become more and more accepted – just look at the claimed effects of droughts in Syria and Ethiopia.
To test the climate-conflict hypothesis, Erin and I therefore focused on the ten main countries in East Africa. We used a new database that records major episodes of political violence and number of total displaced people for the past 50 years for each of the ten countries. We then statistically compared these records both at a country and a regional level with the appropriate climatic, economic and political indicators.
The abstract of the study;
Assessing the relative contribution of economic, political and environmental factors on past conflict and the displacement of people in East Africa
Erin Llwyd Owain & Mark Andrew Maslin
According to the UN Refugee Agency in 2016 there were over 20 million displaced people in Africa. There is considerable debate whether climate change will exacerbate this situation in the future by increasing conflict and thus displacement of people. To explore this climate-conflict-refugee nexus this study analyses whether climatic changes between 1963 and 2014 impacted the risk of conflict and displacement of people in East Africa. A new composite conflict database recording major episodes of political violence (MEPV) was compared with climatic, economic and political indicators using optimisation regression modelling. This study found that climate variations as recorded by the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) and the global temperature record did not significantly impact the level of regional conflict or the number of total displaced people (TDP). The major driving forces on the level of conflict were population growth, economic growth and the relative stability of the political regimes. Numbers of TDP seemed to be linked to population and economic growth. Within TDP, ‘refugees’ were recorded as people that were forced to cross borders between countries. In contrast to TDP and conflict, variations in refugee numbers were found to be significantly related to climatic variations as well as political stability, population and economic growth. This study suggests that climate variations played little or no part in the causation of conflict and displacement of people in East Africa over the last 50 years. Instead, we suggest rapid population growth, low or falling economic growth and political instability during the post-colonial transition were the more important controls. Nonetheless, during this period this study does shows that severe droughts were a contributing driver of refugees crossing international borders. This study demonstrates that within socially and geo-politically fragile systems, climate change may potentially exacerbate the situation particularly with regards to enforced migration.
The main study also notes that some studies suggest the risk of conflict seems higher in ethnically fractionalised countries, countries where distinct ethnic groups have separate cultures and don’t mix very much, where the sense of shared national values is weak.
There have been a few surprise posts like this popping up in unexpected places like The Conversation recently, hopefully a sign that mainstream media acceptance of claims that official climate pronouncements are beyond question or doubt is wearing thin.