A new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and led by John O’Loughlin of the University of Colorado, Boulder, looks at correlations between temperature and conflict in nine countries in East Africa (Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda). The authors utilized data from over 16,000 conflicts that occurred between 1999-2009, and determined that “very hot” temperatures do indeed increase the risk of conflict, though “socioeconomic, political and geographic factors” are still the key main drivers.
The authors also stress variations in potential impact from country to country, even within East Africa.
“The effects of climate variability on conflict risk is different in different countries,” O’Loughlin said. “Typically conflicts are very local and quite confined. The effects of climate on conflict in Ethiopia, for example, are different than those in Tanzania or Somalia. The idea that there is a general ‘African effect’ for conflict is wrong.”
In short, climatic changes that lead to more “very hot” days in the region could exacerbate conflict, though impacts will differ based on unique country circumstances and vulnerabilities.