New Study: Climate Change + Civil Conflict

Girl in a Haitian market. Massive deforestation has left Haiti's people especially vulnerable to tropical storms and other extreme weather events, which scientists predict will increase with climate change. (Photo: © Robin Moore/ iLCP)

CI has long held the stance that climate change is one of the greatest threats to our planet — if not the defining threat. Not only do increasing global temperatures caused by high volumes of greenhouse gases lead to increased instances of flood, drought and desertification of our farmland, but now there’s scientific proof that climate change patterns have a direct correlation with civil conflict.

In an analysis based on changes in cyclical temperature and precipitation patterns, CI’s friends at Columbia University’s Earth Institute recently released a landmark study showing the direct link between global climate change and civil conflict. Their findings show that with an increase in change to these patterns, the likelihood of civil conflict increases twofold.

It’s no surprise, really. Humans living on every type of land — from coastal villages to the Amazon rainforest, from urban centers to remote parts of the desert — are being impacted by changes in climate patterns at such an alarming rate, it’s no wonder war breaks out. Food and water are scarce, homes are being destroyed and resource delivery systems are breaking down. Who wouldn’t be angry and want to lash out?

This heightened risk of conflict only increases our need to find solutions to the climate change crisis.

Nature is at the heart of these solutions, as the communities most impacted by climate change are those depending most directly on the services that nature and its ecosystems provide, from freshwater provision to crop pollination. Understanding the human intricacies at play within the context of climate change is even more proof that CI’s approach to climate mitigation and adaptation is essential if we are to make inroads in creating a healthy, prosperous and peaceful legacy for generations to come.

Joanne Sonenshine is the director of climate strategy in CI’s Global Initiatives division.


  1. Oscar says

    I been living in Cancun ,Mexico for almost 23 years(i am 25) and i remember when i was a child a the sunny days were hot but still glently with the skin, now the sun rays feels itchy and hurts, this is really happening!!

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