The First Climate War? An Environmental Security Analysis of the Darfur Conflict

Authors: Francis Galgano*, Villanova University
Topics: Military Geography, Third World
Keywords: Environmental Security, Military Geography, Darfur, Climate Change
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: 8222, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Environmental security encompasses a range of security issues intensified by environmental factors and suggest that environmental stress has the potential to trigger violent conflict within vulnerable populations. The concept of environmental security has emerged as one basis for understanding international conflicts and two schools of thought have emerged. Traditionalist desire to restrict the subject of conflict to a political-military discourse; while others desire to extend the field to include environmental factors. This paper does not assert that the nature of conflict is new. It does assert, however, that because environmental stress is worsening, we can expect an increase in the frequency of conflicts with an environmental component. The conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan is one such example and has been called the first climate war. This definition is a matter of some polemic. Although Darfur is a helpful example of the environment–conflict nexus, we have to remember that not all environmental scenarios bring about violent conflict and not all wars have environmental origins. Rather, it is uncommon for these associations to be exclusively causative. Nevertheless, this case study is instructive because it demonstrates the common and persistent variables that should be integrated into an analysis of environmental security: 1) exposure to climate and environmental effects; 2) vulnerability of the society; and 3) adaptive capacity.

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