Political Geography 26 (2007) 639e655 www.elsevier.com/locate/polgeo
Climate change, human security and violent conﬂict
Jon Barnett a,*, W. Neil Adger b
School of Social and Environmental Enquiry, University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia b Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and CSERGE, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK a
Abstract Climate change is increasingly been called a ‘security’ problem, and there has been speculation that climate change may increase the risk of violent conﬂict. This paper integrates three disparate but wellfounded bodies of research e on the vulnerability of local places and social groups to climate change, on livelihoods and violent conﬂict, and the role of the state in development and peacemaking, to offer new insights into the relationships between climate change, human security, and violent conﬂict. It explains that climate change increasingly undermines human security in the present day, and will increasingly do so in the future, by reducing access to, and the quality of, natural resources that are important to sustain livelihoods. Climate change is also likely to undermine the capacity of states to provide the opportunities and services that help people to sustain their livelihoods. We argue that in certain circumstances these direct and indirect impacts of climate change on human security may in turn increase the risk of violent conﬂict. The paper then outlines the broad contours of a research programme to guide empirical investigations into the risks climate change poses to human security and peace. Ó 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. Keywords: Climate change; Human security; Violent conﬂict; state functions
Introduction There is now a signiﬁcant body of research that demonstrates that climate change is and will increasingly have dramatic impacts on ecological and social systems (summarised in IPCC, 2001, 2007). The risks are such that the aim of the UN Framework Convention on Climate * Corresponding author. Tel.: þ61 3 8344 0819; fax: þ61 3 9349 4218. E-mail address: email@example.com (J. Barnett). 0962-6298/$ - see front matter Ó 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.polgeo.2007.03.003
J. Barnett, W.N. Adger / Political Geography 26 (2007) 639e655
Change is to avoid ‘dangerous’ interference in the climate system, and such impacts have been deﬁned as a threat to ‘security’ (Barnett, 2003; Barnett & Adger, 2003; Brown, 1989; Edwards, 1999; Swart, 1996). There has been some speculation about the ways that climate change may increase the risk of violent conﬂict (Brauch, 2002; Gleick, 1992; Homer-Dixon, 1991; van Ireland, Klaassen, Nierop, & van der Wusten, 1996). There are two broad ways in which conﬂict might be stimulated by climate change. First, conﬂict could come about through changes in the political economy of energy resources due to mitigative action to reduce emissions from fossil fuels (Rifkin, 2002). The second issue is the prospect of conﬂict stimulated by changes in social systems driven by actual or perceived climate impacts. This paper is concerned with the second of these possible connections. It offers new insights into the relationships between climate change, human security, and violent conﬂict by integrating three disparate but well-founded bodies of research e on the vulnerability of local places and social groups to climate change, on livelihoods and violent conﬂict, and the role of the state in development and peacemaking. Human security is taken here to mean the condition where people and communities have the capacity to manage stresses to their needs, rights, and values (after Alkire, 2003). This paper has four principal sections. First, it explains that climate change may undermine human security by reducing access to, and the quality of, natural resources that are important to sustain livelihoods. Second, it suggests that the kinds of human insecurity that...
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