50% More Civil War In Africa by 2030... Thanks to Climate Change

darfur painting image

image: Future Atlas via flickr.

I'm sure you've heard estimates someone say how civil strife is likely to increase because of climate change. It's an oft-cited notion, but until now the linkages hadn't really been examined in a systematic, causal way. A multi-university team of researchers has now determined that in the case of sub-Saharan Africa climate change could increase the likelihood of civil war by more than 50%:The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found surprising linkages between temperature and recent conflict.

Farmers Sensitive to Small Temperature Changes
Edward Miguel, from UC Berkeley, said this makes sense as, "the large majority of the poor in most African countries depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, and their crops are quite sensitive to small changes in temperature. So when temperatures rise, the livelihoods of many in Africa suffer greatly, and the disadvantaged become more likely to take up arms."

Warmer Years Produce More Wars
Looking at rainfall and temperature records across Africa and correlating them with historical data on civil wars shows that between 1980 and 2002 civil wars were "significantly more likely in warmer-than-average years." A 1°C increase in temperature above normal increase the incidence of conflict by almost 50%.

Projecting this forward and looking at 20 different climate models, the researchers found that by 2030 temperatures will rise on average by a bit more than 1°C, leading to increases in civil war and an additional 393,000 battle deaths -- assuming future wars are as deadly as recent ones.

Staggering Human Costs Without Mitigation
Study lead author Marshall Burke, also from UC Berkeley says,

Our findings provide strong impetus to ramp up investments in African adaptation to climate change by such steps as developing crop varieties less sensitive to extreme heat and promoting insurance plans to help protect farmers from adverse effects of the hotter climate.

Burke added that without such measures to help African nations adapt to climate change, "the human costs are likely to be staggering."

Read the original: Warming increases the risk of civil war in Africa [PDF]

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