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Putting Environmental Stress (Back) On the Mass Atrocities Agenda


Darfur refugee camp in Chad, Photo by Mark Knobil

By Cullen Hendrix, Center for Climate and Security Senior Research Advisor; Korbel School, University of Denver & Peterson Institute for International Economics

When and why do environmental stressors, including climate change, play a role in precipitating mass atrocities–genocides and politicides, forced displacement, war crimes, and crimes against humanity–and what can the international community do about them? Fears stemming from demographic and environmental stress—particularly access to arable land–were associated with some of the 20th century’s worst mass atrocities. Adolf Hitler’s territorial ambitions in Europe were fueled by an obsession with lebensraum, literally, “living space,” and Japan’s invasion and sack of Manchuria was similarly motivated by a desire to access the territory’s vast renewable and mineral resources. (more…)

Two New Conflict and Mass Atrocity Prediction Tools

Ajdabiya_technical_-_Flickr_-_Al_Jazeera_EnglishTwo new programs of note have been developed to help predict conflict and mass atrocities internationally. One, the Global Conflict Tracker (available already here), is from the Council on Foreign Relations’ Center for Preventive Action, and the other, an open source algorithm designed to help predict the likelihood of mass atrocities, was developed for USAID and Humanity United as part of a “tech challenge for atrocity prevention.”  (more…)

Could Climate Change Increase the Probability of Future Mass Atrocities?

As reported today in the New York Times, “a group of foreign policy experts, among them Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, gathered at the Holocaust Memorial Museum on Tuesday to consider modern threats of genocide and how to prevent them.” Interestingly, the subjects of climate change, water, food and energy security came up. (more…)
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