Since the beginning of the twenty first century we have become witnesses to the increase of violent conflicts due to the global warming and climate change. Weather extremes such as floods, droughts and typhoons are some examples that force a high number of people to abandon their habitual homes temporarily or permanently owing to the fact that these extremes adversely affect their lives. As the Intergovernmental Panel on climate Change observed: ‘‘ [m]ost of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations, which has ‘very likely… contributed to a rise in mean sea level’’ However, it is worth mentioning that some changes like those that were mentioned above may be very sudden and drastic and have a temporary effect leading the people to flee away from their homes. But there are some other changes slower in on-set such as the sea-level rise that might cause further security risks. Researchers have shown that there is an interlink between climate change and conflict due to its effect on the dynamics of violent conflict in regions such as Africa and Southeast Asia. This effect will lead to the deterioration of livelihood, the resources as well as vulnerable groups will be exploited by elites and the influx of migrants due to climate extremes will be increased.
As it is mentioned above, one of the main effects that climate change will cause is the deterioration of livelihood. But how is this linked with violent conflicts? Given the depletion of natural resources, the major livelihoods in many parts of the world but particularly in the African region have shifted the current strategies in order to cope with environmental change. This disruption of economic livelihoods due to the recession of natural resources could lead to conflict variable due to the fact that the competition over the natural resources will increase along with the human migration as a basin. Inevitably, this linkage between the increase of competition and human migration will create a conflict with this pattern as its basin. But most importantly, these incidents of conflict won’t occur between different groups of people but between different nations. To illustrate this point let us consider the lake Chad in North Eastern Nigeria. Lake Chad is one of the largest lakes in Africa which provides fresh water and other resources to more than 20 million people, including four countries namely Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria and Niger. This lake is the main source of freshwater for the human population and the broader wildlife community. However, the reserve of the lake is continuously and drastically reducing on the fact that climate change along with the exploitation of its resources cause an ongoing dispute over its territorial ownership which questions which nation has the right to the appropriate proportion of the lake’s resources. This issue has led to rampant conflicts between downstream and upstream users.
Apart from the effect of climate change to the livelihood, climate change will increase the inequality between vulnerable groups and elites. This nexus will lead to the exploitation of these groups due to their exposure to climate hazards , their susceptibility to damage and their decreased ability to cope with the damage. As Olsson noted “socially and economically disadvantaged and marginalized people are disproportionately affected by climate change”. Also, this effect is impacted by the unequal expenditure of adaptation funds in which elites have easier access and management. For example, in parts of Southeast Asia flood risk management strategies benefit the local elites by prioritizing the protection of high-value properties and land uses but exclude ecological services for productive fisheries that primarily benefit rural farmers and fisher households. Therefore, vulnerables groups would be either displaced or disproportionately affected and their protection in order to cope with the damages of climate hazards would be solely a private responsibility rather than a public one.
In addition to the deterioration of livelihood and exploitation of vulnerable groups and their resources , climate change may cause hazards that may be very sudden and drastic and have a temporary effect leading the people to flee away from their homes. But there are some other changes slower in on-set such as the sea-level rise that might require a permanent movement. Research has shown that the number of refugees due to climate change is increasing since mid-1990 and it is expected to reach the two hundred million by 2050. According to the International Organization of Migration, a climate refugee or climate migrant is a person or a group of persons who, for compelling reasons of sudden or progressive changes in the environment that adversely affect their lives or living conditions are obliged to leave their habitual homes, or choose to do so, either temporarily or permanently, and who move either within their country or abroad . The factors for leading someone to such a movement or in better terms displacement vary considerably. Firstly, the intensification of hydro-meteorological disasters such as floods droughts, typhoons and mudslides will lead to a temporary internal displacement and a planned evacuation of areas at high risks caused by these disasters will be organized by the government due to environmental effects of the climate change. Another factor, are the small island states that are starting to disappear due to the sea-level rise. Therefore, these territories are not longer habitable owing to the fact that theyare incapable to grow any crops and their inhabitants relocate permanently to other places. Despite the fact that other places emit less than one percent of global emissions in greenhouse gases, there are going to be exposed to natural disasters and weather extremes due to their low adaptive capacity and very open economies. Last but not least, the discovery of new natural resources can increase the risk of conflict, especially in low income countries if the resource is oil. According to the World Bank Document the acquisition of a natural resource such as oil can raise the possibility of an ideological war at 3% and the possibility of a secessionist war at 8% . Thus, the risk of conflict leads to a temporary or permanent displacement of people and create an increased influx of migrants towards neighboring countries or regions.
But in the end the amount of rigorous empirical research on the link between climate and conflict is limited. Therefore, there is a need for more research in order to understand how climate change might increase the risk of violence and under what circumstances it is likely to do so. A further study is essential to address the knowledge gaps of the relationship between climate and conflict and provide applicable mechanisms that would respond in different contexts. on the grounds that violent conflicts are multi-causal, context-specific and develop over time.