Climate related natural disasters economic growth and armed civil conflict Essay

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Climate-related natural disasters, economic growth, and armed civil conflict

E S E A R C H

Journal of Peace Research
49(1) 147–162
ª The Author(s) 2012
Reprints and permission: sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/0022343311426167 jpr.sagepub.com Drago Bergholt
Department of Economics, Norwegian Business School (BI)
Pa¨ivi Lujala
Department of Economics & Department of Geography, Norwegian University of Science and Technology
(NTNU) & Centre for the Study of Civil War, PRIO

Abstract
Global warming is expected to make the climate warmer, wetter, and wilder. It is predicted that such climate change will increase the severity and frequency of climate-related disasters like flash floods, surges, cyclones, and severe storms. This article uses econometric methods to study the consequences of climate-induced natural disasters on economic growth, and how these disasters are linked to the onset of armed civil conflict either directly or via their impact on economic growth. The results show that climate-related natural disasters have a negative effect on growth and that the impact is considerable. The analysis of conflict onset shows that climate-related natural disasters do not increase the risk of armed conflict. This is also true when we instrument the change in GDP growth by climatic disasters. The result is robust to inclusion of country and time fixed effects, different estimation techniques, and various operationalization of the disasters measure, as well as for conflict incidence and war onset. These findings have two major implications: if climate change increases the frequency or makes weather-related natural disasters more severe, it is an economic concern for countries susceptible to these types of hazards. However, our results suggest – based on historical data – that more frequent and severe climate-related disasters will not lead to more armed conflicts through their effects on GDP growth.
Keywords
armed civil conflict, climate change, climate-related natural disasters, economic growth

Introduction
Catastrophes such as typhoons and floods have caused significant economic and human losses throughout history. The heavy monsoon that hit Pakistan in July
2010 caused floods that ravaged the country, bringing enormous damage to homes, schools, fields, and infrastructure. The reported death toll for the event is about
2,000, while an estimated 20.3 million people, or more than 10% of the Pakistani population, were affected
(OFDA, 2010).
We might be able to grasp the gravity of disaster damages through testimonies from victims, relief workers, and journalists, but the short- and long-term effects on economic growth and peace remain largely unknown.
What happens to production and national income in the short run? Furthermore, with regard to ongoing

transnational efforts to prevent armed civil conflicts, what are the effects of climate-related events?
The potential impact of climate change in the form of natural disasters is relevant not only for Pakistan: on average more than 270 devastating floods and storms are reported every year throughout the world (CRED,
2011).1 Although it is the large-scale events that make the headlines, the frequency of smaller events is equally striking: even in the absence of large-scale events in

Corresponding author:
Drago.Bergholt@bi.no
1

In fact, these two disaster classes alone represent more than 70% of all disasters reported in CRED’s EM-DAT database for the latest decade. See http://www.emdat.be.

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journal of PEACE RESEARCH 49(1)

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2009, more than 100 million people were victims of climatic disasters (Vos et al., 2010).
Questions about the impacts of such disasters are clearly of great importance for the livelihoods of a large number of people and countries and hence for international development agencies and policymakers throughout the global community. As…