Climate change, economic growth, and conflict Bernauer, ThomasKalbhenn, AnnaKoubi, VallyRuoff, GabrieleFreie Universität Berlin, Fachbereich Politik- und Sozialwissenschaften, Forschungsstelle für Umweltpolitik
Climate change, economic growth, and conflict
Freie Universität Berlin, Fachbereich Politik- und Sozialwissenschaften, Forschungsstelle für Umweltpolitik
Despite many claims by high-ranking policy-makers and some scientists that climate
change breeds violent conflict, the existing empirical literature has so far not been
able to identify a systematic, causal relationship of this kind. This may either reflect
de facto absence of such a relationship, or it may be the consequence of theoretical
and methodological limitations of existing work. We revisit the climate–conflict issue
along two lines. First, at the theoretical level we specify the mechanism through
which climate change is likely to affect the risk of armed conflict. We focus on the
causal chain linking climatic conditions, economic growth, and armed conflict, and
also argue that the growth–conflict part of this chain is contingent on political system
characteristics. Second, at the methodological level, we develop an approach that
takes care of endogeneity problems in the climate–economy–conflict relationship. We
test our theoretical argument on a global data set for 1950-2004. The results show that
the climate change–conflict hypothesis rests on rather shaky empirical foundations:
we do find some negative effects of climate change on economic growth, while
stronger economic growth is associated with a lower probability of civil conflict.
However, the climate change effect on growth is not robust to changes in climate
indicators and samples. Our results also indicate that non-democratic countries are
more likely to experience armed conflict when economic conditions deteriorate. Our
results suggest that investing in climate-friendly economic growth and democracy can
qualify as a no-regrets strategy.
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