How does climate exacerbate root causes of conflict in Mali? An econometric analysis

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Kangogo, Daniel
Läderach, Peter
Grazia Pacillo

1. Objective and research questions

The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report identifies climate change as one of the main challenges threatening human existence (IPCC, 2021). Together with other drivers, climate change threatens human life in many ways including increasing the occurrence of natural disasters, undermining livelihoods security and peace. With respect to livelihoods security and peace, an increasing stream of research over the past decades has addressed the climate-conflict nexus (Burke et al., 2009; Fjelde, 2015; Froese and Schilling, 2019; Helman et al., 2020). The findings of these studies are mixed, some support the argument that climate change exacerbates conflict (Burke et al., 2009; Crost et al., 2018; van Weezel, 2020) while others find no effect of climate change on conflict (Bergholt and Lujala, 2012; Slettebak, 2012). The studies that support the argument that climate change increases conflict conclude that there is no simple and direct causal relationship, rather, the relationship between climate change and conflict is indirect, complex and dynamic with feedback loops. For instance, in Africa where a majority of the countries rely on agriculture for economic development and the main livelihood source for the majority of their households, an increase in climatic anomalies may result in reduced production leading to livelihood and food insecurities and this may in turn trigger emergence of conflict events (Couttenier and Soubeyran, 2014). Similarly, reduction in food production due to climatic anomalies may lead to reducing employment opportunities and incomes, and rising food prices which may substantially increase conflicts (Fjelde, 2015).

This research contributes to the growing debate about climate-conflict nexus by focusing on the question of whether climate is a threat multiplier using nationally representative data from Mali a country in the Sahel region of sub-Saharan Africa. The objective is to understand the role of climate change on conflict occurrence and the pathways through which this happens. We argue that climate anomalies negatively affect agricultural production which in turn negatively affects household food security and this triggers conflict occurrence. From the foregoing, we answer the following research questions:

I. Does climate influence agricultural production?

II. Does agricultural production, as affected by climate, influence household food security?

III. Does food insecurity, as exacerbated by climate impacts, affect the likelihood and intensity of conflict?

The next sections of the factsheet proceed as follows. Section 2 outlines the data and methods used; section 3 presents a summary of results. The final section provides the conclusion and suggestions for future research.