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Low agricultural potential exacerbates the effect of temperature on civil conflicts

Jonathan Goyette and Maroua Smaoui

Ecological Economics, 2022, vol. 192, issue C

Abstract: We examine the impact of temperature variations on the incidence of civil state conflicts, focusing on a specific mechanism: the agricultural potential of a country, i.e., its initial agricultural conditions before human interventions. Using data for 172 countries from 1946 until 2014, we conduct a natural experiment and identify the effect of the interaction between time-wise variations in temperature within a country and the cross-country variation in agricultural potential on conflict incidence. We find that there is a significantly higher probability to be in conflict when annual temperature deviates from its mean in a country with low agricultural potential relative to a country with high agricultural potential. An analysis of the long-term relationship (decennial averages) points to an exacerbation of the negative impact of the agricultural potential-temperature interaction on civil conflicts. The findings also suggest that the interaction has similar effects across development levels, no matter the share of agriculture in a country's GDP, and no significant effect in countries with exportable resources such as oil. The results are robust to a high resolution grid analysis when we use a suitability index for wheat. For other cereals and other specifications, including standardized temperature and long differences, the results are significant when controlling for the distance to the capital. This is the first study to show that initial agricultural conditions play a significant role to understand the climate-conflict linkages on a global scale.

Keywords: Armed conflict; Civil war; Climate change; Crop suitability; Water scarcity; Food security (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2022
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DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2021.107250

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