Poor governance, climate change are deadly combination

A new study from The Ohio State University shows that climate change-induced risks such as food scarcity or extreme weather combined with weak governance are far deadlier than either of those risks separately.

According to new research from The Ohio State University, the strength of a country’s government plays a vital role in preventing climate change-induced violence.

“A capable government is even more important to keeping the peace than good weather,” said Bear Braunmoeller, co-author of the study and an associate professor of political science.

“We’ve already started to see climate change as an issue that won’t just put the coasts under water, but as something that could cause food riots in some parts of the world,” he added.

Extreme weather such as droughts and floods could hurt agricultural production in some countries, leading to violence there or elsewhere by people who are desperate for food.

In the study, the researchers estimated the effects of food insecurity and state vulnerability on the occurrence of violent uprisings in Africa for the years 1991 to 2011. They used a variety of measurements for climate-related causes of food shocks such as rainfall, temperature and the international prices of food, including sudden price increases.

“We recognised that countries that imported food could be impacted by climate shocks in other parts of the world that suddenly increased prices, even if they weren’t experiencing any significant weather impacts themselves,” Braumoeller explained.

When examining countries’ vulnerabilities, the researchers analysed a range of factors including a country’s dependence on agricultural production, its imports, the strength of its political institutions and its wealth.

“We found that the most vulnerable countries are those that have weak political institutions, are relatively poor and rely more on agriculture,” he said. “Less vulnerable countries can better handle the problems that droughts or food price fluctuations create.”

According to Braumoeller, addressing the vulnerabilities of countries “is crucial to breaking the link between food insecurity and violence. In the short term, this means providing food aid to offset shortages, but in the long term, greater efforts must be made on strengthening government institutions in vulnerable countries and helping them invest in green growth policies that increase economic growth while fostering resilience to climate shocks.


Image credit: arbyreed, flickr/Creative Commons

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