Extreme weather events resulting due to climate change are pushing countries into armed conflicts, suggests a new study carried out by researchers from Germany. The study found that about one in four armed conflicts between ethnically divided countries were preceded by climate-related calamities.
In this study, researchers performed a statistical analysis of armed conflicts and climate-related natural disasters that occurred between 1980 and 2010. Researchers used data from international reinsurance firm Munich Re, and combined it with other information to quantify how much "ethnically fractionalised" different countries are.
The temperature of Earth has increased significantly in the past one century. Environmentalists fear a further rise in temperature could make a large area of the planet unfit for people to live, thus forcing millions of people to migrate to other regions that will eventually increase the risk of armed conflicts between different communities.
"Devastating climate-related natural disasters have a disruptive potential that seems to play out in ethnically fractionalised societies in a particularly tragic way," said Dr Carl Schleussner, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
"Climate disasters are not directly triggering conflict outbreak, but may enhance the risk of a conflict breaking out which is rooted in context-specific circumstances. As intuitive as this might seem, we can now show this in a scientifically sound way."
Researchers found a 9% coincidence rate between natural disasters and violent clashes at a global level. The percentage increased to about 23% for countries that were deeply divided along ethnic lines. Several Central Asian and African countries were found to be "among the most fractionalised" in the world, suggested that these areas are "potential hot spots of armed-conflict outbreak risk". In recent years, Chad, Niger, and northern Nigeria have suffered extreme whether conditions, resulting in political violence in these countries.
Prof John Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, suggests that armed clashes are among the "biggest threats to people", but a combination of ethnic tensions and climate disasters creates an "explosive mixture".
In 2011, a study carried out by Prof Solomon Hsiang from the University of California Berkeley had shown that climate change is linked to 20% of civil wars since 1950.
"We've been surprised by the extent that results for ethnic fractionalised countries stick out, compared to other country features such as conflict history, poverty, or inequality," said Dr Jonathan Donges, the co-author of the new study.
"We think that ethnic divides may serve as a predetermined conflict line when additional stressors like natural disasters kick in, making multi-ethnic countries particularly vulnerable to the effect of such disasters."
The detailed findings of the study have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.