Intensifying climate change will increase the future risk of violent armed conflict within countries, according to a study published today in the journal Nature. Synthesizing views across experts, the study estimates climate has influenced between 3% and 20% of armed conflict risk over the last century and that the influence will likely increase dramatically.
In a scenario with 4 degrees Celsius of warming (approximately the path we’re on if societies do not substantially reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases), the influence of climate on conflicts would increase more than five times, leaping to a 26% chance of a substantial increase in conflict risk, according to the study. Even in a scenario of 2 degrees Celsius of warming beyond preindustrial levels – the stated goal of the Paris Climate Agreement¬ – the influence of climate on conflicts would more than double, rising to a 13% chance.
“Appreciating the role of climate change and its security impacts is important not only for understanding the social costs of our continuing heat-trapping emissions, but for prioritizing responses, which could include aid and cooperation,” said Katharine Mach, director of the Stanford Environment Assessment Facility and the study’s lead author.
Climate change-driven extreme weather and related disasters can damage economies, lower farming and livestock production and intensify inequality among social groups. These factors, when combined with other drivers of conflict, may increase risks of violence.