The Conflict-Population-Climate Nexus: Disentangling the Climate Consensus from the Neoliberal Consensus

Authors: Lisa Jordan*, Drew University, Andrew Katapodis, Drew University
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Population Geography, Agricultural Geography
Keywords: Climate change, famine, conflict, displacement, human rights, Sustainable Development Goals, war crimes
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Roosevelt 6, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Cases of violent conflict, famine, and population displacement have been used opportunistically to elevate the immediacy of climate disruption, while downplaying the political history and regional factors contributing to present human rights violations. We present a textual analysis of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) documents from 1990 – 2018 that describe climate change as a cause of displacement and conflict to characterize the climate-centric approach used to explain present and future instances of famine. Informed by theories in political ecology, we argue that colonial and post-colonial structures of governance, regional actors, negligent leaders, the financial structures and incentives adopted by Western governments pursing “war on terror” objectives, and international weapons distributors deserve greater scrutiny in the responsibility for the “roll back” on advances toward the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #2: Zero Hunger. We also explore the leading counter-narratives including Alex de Waal’s recent work on famine as a crime, April Longley Alley’s work on political legitimacy, and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who flagged the current situation in Yemen as the “world’s largest humanitarian crisis,” U.S. arms transfers to Saudi Arabia as “unconscionable,” and the U.S. as “complicit in war crimes.” Scholarship on the geographies of food and agriculture presents useful ways forward in acknowledging the severity and urgency climate change impacts without simultaneously undermining the accountability of national leaders and international actors engaged in war crimes.

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