Climate change can have major economic and social consequences for all nations. It is possible that some nations will benefit from climate change but most will be impacted negatively. Failure to mitigate and adapt to climate effects can raise the likelihood of violent conflict.

Peace Brief: Climate Change as a Conflict Multiplier

Summary

  • Climate change can be a conflict multiplying mechanism as it fosters unforeseen conflicts and reinforces existing ones. While there are many causes of conflict, climate change can be a trigger in the sequence.
  • Climate effects that constrain resources are unequally distributed to those countries already in the most desperate situations. Coupled with rising population growth, these events are likely to heighten poverty in the future if no action is taken. Adaptive development must be sustainable to bridge existing shortfalls, must plan for anticipated effects, and provide for the longer-term picture. More developed and higher carbon-emitting states should engage in mitigation efforts to reduce these effects.
  • Given that one country will feel the consequences of environmental destruction sown by another, the costs and benefits of adaptation and mitigation should be weighed from a global perspective as the capacity of countries to respond varies. Failure to mitigate and adapt to climate effects can raise the likelihood of violent conflict.

About this Brief

In the fall of 2010, USIP hosted the event Environmental Sustainability and Peace in a Changing World. This Peace Brief incorporates the key points made by discussing the linkages between climate change and conflict and outlines opportunities for both mitigation and adaptation for all stakeholders.

About the Author

Amanda Mayoral is the special assistant to the chief of staff at USIP. She has studied economics as a graduate student at the American University in Washington, D.C.

Related Publications

Mona Yacoubian on the State of Play in Syria

Mona Yacoubian on the State of Play in Syria

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

By: Mona Yacoubian

Mona Yacoubian discusses the state of play in Syria ahead of important withdrawal deadlines this week for removing heavy weapons from Idlib province. Yacoubian also discusses the waves of migration forced by the crisis, noting that 2018 has been the worst year to date for internally displaced Syrians; and the recent news that U.S. special operations forces are likely to remain in the country indefinitely to prevent a possible re-emergence of ISIS.

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

South Sudan’s Civil War and Conflict Dynamics in the Red Sea

South Sudan’s Civil War and Conflict Dynamics in the Red Sea

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

By: Payton Knopf

The five-year-old civil war in South Sudan is an unparalleled humanitarian and security crisis, causing the largest exodus of refugees on the African continent since the Rwandan genocide and leaving over a third of the population displaced and two-thirds severely food insecure. Beyond the human toll on South Sudan’s long-suffering citizens, the country’s unraveling underscores the shifting political and security fault lines in the Horn of Africa. This Special Report surveys the region’s various interstate hostilities and intrastate conflicts and suggests ways the United States can reassert its influence to begin contributing meaningfully to the resolution of South Sudan’s civil war and conflicts in the greater Red Sea region.

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

View All Publications