Climate Change & Security in Africa: Clear Risks, Nuanced Impacts
Moran and Raleigh on Policies to Address Climate-Conflict Links in Africa
CCAPS researchers Ashley Moran and Clionadh Raleigh, with co-author Yacob Mulugetta, published a new paper with the Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change (GMACCC),exploring how local-level conflict and environmental data can assist policymakers and researchers in assessing links between environmental patterns and violence.
The paper explores the difficulties of bridging between physical and political phenomena, and it offers ways to parse the challenge of designing policy responses to such a complex set of intertwined climate and security issues. It does so by observing three ongoing conflicts across Africa – Darfur, Mali, and South Sudan. Each conflict is occurring in impoverished states, with governance capacity constraints, and subject to environmental shifts and disasters. By examining these recent conflicts and their patterns, environmental problems, and seasonal vulnerabilities, the paper seeks to show empirically supported examples exploring where climate change is and isn't related to conflict.
The cases provide examples of how climate change influences conflict by increasing the frequency and intensity of climate hazards that change the operating environment and, with it, the opportunities and grievances that influence conflict. Interventions can thus target the locations and times where climate factors accelerate or amplify conflict in that location. In Darfur, this is during the transition from the rainy to dry seasons; and in Mali, this is increased rebel activity in the late dry season and increased communal militia activity in the rainy season. Such intervention tactics target the points where climate factors increase opportunities for conflict, seeking to reduce specific actors' ability to take advantage of such changes in the environment.
The authors underscore that conflict responses must focus not only on the timing and targets of conflict, but also the pathways from climate impacts to these security outcomes. Because climate change does not impact conflict directly, government responses can potentially prevent the adverse impact that climate change has on security outcomes like conflict. Through their roles in managing food distribution networks, import tariffs, migration policy, land and water use regulations, natural resource management, adaptation aid distribution, and any number of other policies, governments can influence how their populations experience climate change and thus the grievances and opportunities that conflict actors may leverage to drive conflict.