NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Climate and Conflict

Marshall Burke, Solomon M. Hsiang, Edward Miguel

NBER Working Paper No. 20598
Issued in October 2014
NBER Program(s):DEV, EEE, POL

Until recently, neither climate nor conflict have been core areas of inquiry within economics, but there has been an explosion of research on both topics in the past decade, with a particularly large body of research emerging at their intersection. In this review, we survey this literature on the interlinkages between climate and conflict, by necessity drawing from both economics and other disciplines given the inherent interdisciplinarity of research in this field. We consider many types of human conflict in the review, including both interpersonal conflict -- such as domestic violence, road rage, assault, murder, and rape -- and intergroup conflict -- including riots, ethnic violence, land invasions, gang violence, civil war and other forms of political instability, such as coups. We discuss the key methodological issues in estimating causal relationships in this area, and largely focus on "natural experiments" that exploit variation in climate variables over time, helping to address omitted variable bias concerns. After harmonizing statistical specifications and standardizing estimated effect sizes within each conflict category, we carry out a hierarchical meta-analysis that allows us to estimate the mean effect of climate variation on conflict outcomes as well as to quantify the degree of variability in this effect size across studies. Looking across 55 studies, we find that deviations from moderate temperatures and precipitation patterns systematically increase the risk of conflict, often substantially, with average effects that are highly statistically significant. We find that contemporaneous temperature has the largest average effect by far, with each 1σ increase toward warmer temperatures increasing the frequency of contemporaneous interpersonal conflict by 2.4% and of intergroup conflict by 11.3%, but that the 2-period cumulative effect of rainfall on intergroup conflict is also substantial (3.5%/σ). We also quantify heterogeneity in these effect estimates across settings that is likely important. We conclude by highlighting remaining challenges in this field and the approaches we expect will be most effective at solving them, including identifying mechanisms that link climate to conflict, measuring the ability of societies to adapt to climate changes, and understanding the likely impacts of future global warming.

download in pdf format
   (1903 K)

email paper

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20598

Published: Marshall Burke & Solomon M. Hsiang & Edward Miguel, 2015. "Climate and Conflict," Annual Review of Economics, vol 7(1), pages 577-617. citation courtesy of

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Bound, Demirci, Khanna, and Turner w20505 Finishing Degrees and Finding Jobs: U.S. Higher Education and the Flow of Foreign IT Workers
Kahn and Walsh w20503 Cities and the Environment
Grossman and Helpman w20502 Growth, Trade, and Inequality
Rose w20494 The Bond Market: An Inflation-Targeter's Best Friend
Heckman and Mosso w19925 The Economics of Human Development and Social Mobility
 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
NBER Videos
Themes
Data
People
About

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us