Fighting to Survive: How Climate Change and Conflict are Connected

Authors: Annelise Laughlin*,
Topics: Military Geography
Keywords: climate change, conflict, military geography, Environmental Security, Darfur, Sudan, Africa
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 6
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The Department of Defense, UNEP, and IPCC have all identified climate change as an emergent threat to global security. The connection between violence and environmental degradation—known as the Environmental Security Paradigm—could have severe consequences for local populations who are unequipped to adapt and manage environmental damage and for international peacekeeping bodies. This project links long-term spatial and temporal climate data in Darfur, Sudan to investigate the climate-conflict nexus. Inspired by the NASA-Goddard climate change anomaly, this project developed a 100-year precipitation anomaly. The anomaly data were linked in GIS and used to develop a ‘conflict timeline’ to investigate spatial and temporal linkages between severe drought and the onset of violence in Darfur. The findings suggest that conflict zones were severely impacted by drought and resource conflicts became increasingly violent as the drought persisted. These results suggest that, although climate change is not the immediate cause of conflict, sustained environmental degradation strained the social fabric and catalyzed violence in Darfur. It is vital that climate change is recognized as a contributing factor in conflict, so areas at risk of environmental disruption can be identified and unrest mitigated before it escalates into violent conflict.

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