Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies Woods Institute for the Environment Center on Food Security and the Environment Stanford University


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Warming Increases Risk of Civil War in Africa

Journal Article

Marshall Burke - Stanford University
Edward Miguel - Department of Economics at University of California, Berkeley
Shanker Satyanath - Department of Politics at NYU
John Dykema - School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University
David Lobell - Stanford University

Published by
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, November 23, 2009

Armed conflict within nations has had disastrous humanitarian consequences throughout much of the world. Here we undertake the first comprehensive examination of whether global climate change will exacerbate armed conflict in sub-Saharan Africa. We find strong historical linkages between civil war and temperature on the continent, with warmer years leading to significant increases in the likelihood of war. When combined with climate model projections of future temperature trends, this historical response to temperature suggests a roughly 60% increase in armed conflict incidence by 2030, or an additional 390,000 battle deaths if future wars are as deadly as recent wars.  Our results suggest an urgent need to reform African governments' and foreign aid donors' policies to deal with rising temperatures.