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KLIMAFORSK-Stort program klima

CROP: Quantifying Conflict Risk of Agricultural Productivity Changes

Alternative title: Konfliktrisiko og jordbruksproduktivitet

Awarded: NOK 7.5 mill.

Climate change is commonly viewed to constitute a threat to rural livelihood, food security, and economic development in vulnerable societies. Stagnant economies and widespread poverty, in turn, are among the most important explanations of civil war. Yet, existing comparative scientific research on security impacts of climate change has focused mostly on evaluating simpler and more general connections between weather fluctuations and violent conflict. In this project (CROP), hosted at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), we seek to push the research frontier several steps forward by investigating in depth how agricultural productivity changes can lead to social instability and conflict. An important part of this work will be to identify the most important economic and political characteristics that make food production shocks especially hazardous. Moreover, the analysis of the historical relationship between crop production and violent conflict will be supplemented by statistical simulations of future conflict along different climate change and agriculture scenarios. Increasing our knowledge about how adverse climatic changes and subsequent impacts on agriculture can lead to social instability is important in order to design effective policies to assist the affected populations and prevent emerging conflicts from escalating to the use of armed force. The initial phase of the project was dedicated to brainstorming and coordination of work, as well as establishing large databases to facilitate comprehensive empirical analyses and simulations. Some of this work has been conducted in collaboration with two associated ERC projects: CLIMSEC at PRIO and ViEWS at Uppsala University (both projects led by members of CROP). In subsequent reporting periods, the project team has worked jointly on a number of conceptual and empirical studies, which have been presented and discussed with colleagues at numerous conferences and workshops, and subsequently published in leading international peer-reviewed journals. In the current (final) reporting period, the project has published six more journal articles. Additional manuscripts are under development and will be submitted to relevant outlets and accepted for publication in the coming year. A central product from this work has been the publication of a special issue of the Journal of Peace Research (January 2021) dedicated to climate security, edited by two CROP members. In addition to the introductory article by the guest editors (von Uexkull & Buhaug 2021), the special issue included one more contribution from the CROP project (Linke & Ruether 2021) along with 13 other articles. Other major results in the reporting period include a survey-based study of drought and land ownership in 35 African countries, which highlighted considerable climate-related vulnerability in marginal agricultural regions (Linke & Tollefsen 2021). Moreover, the project has produced important theoretical contributions to our understanding of connections between climate change, vulnerability, and political instability. An article published in the Annual Review of Environment and Resources demonstrates how the risk framework of the IPCC can be expanded to incorporate how instability and conflict both are key drivers of vulnerability and potential outcomes of climatic impacts. In addition to work on scientific studies, we have established a close dialogue and collaboration with central policy actors, e.g., FAO, the World Bank, World Food Programme (WFP), and the ministries of foreign affairs in Sweden and Norway. CROP members have played active roles in various open and closed meetings with Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to support their work on climate security in the UN Security Council as well as the newly established Nordic-Baltic expert network on climate, peace, and security. Although the project overall has been very productive and can document a range of important results, there is little doubt that the Covid pandemic has had a negative impact on the project, e.g., through limiting travel and physical meetings and delaying some activities, which resulted in an extension of the overall project period.

The CROP project identified three key audiences. (1) PEERS: The main strategy has been academic publishing where the project has been very visible, with 11 journal articles in leading international journals to date and more forthcoming. The project also has presented and circulated work at a large number of international conferences, workshops, and meetings. (2) POLICY: Project members have collaborated with representatives from several intergovernmental organizations as part of this research, notably the FAO, the World Bank, and the World Food Programme. CROP members also have played active roles in supporting the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in their work on climate security in the UN Security Council, e.g., through briefings and webinar presentations. (3) PUBLIC: Results from the project have also been disseminated to the general public via blogs, op-eds and popular articles, and through interviews with the media (TV, radio) in Norway, Sweden, and the USA.

A recent wave of societal upheavals across the Middle East and beyond has accentuated concerns that adverse climatic conditions increase conflict risk. A simple and sweeping climate-conflict effect is not likely but climate variability and extremes can have powerful indirect and conditional effects on political violence. The most plausible mechanism linking these phenomena is adverse agricultural productivity changes (short- and long-term shifts in agricultural output due to climate variability and change). Yet, little is known about the conditions under which this causal pathway is most likely to materialize. The CROP project addresses this research lacuna head-on. It will be guided by following research challenges: (i) Identify key conditions exacerbating the conflict potential of agricultural productivity changes (ii) Simulate implications of alternative climate change-related agricultural scenarios for future conflict risk The project will move beyond the research frontier along three dimensions, by explicitly (a) accounting for contexts within which negative agricultural production changes are most likely to result in violent conflict; (b) accounting for the relevant social actors involved (rural producers, urban consumers); and (c) evaluating the implications of uncovered patterns for future conflict risk through out-of-sample validations and forecasting along state-of-the-art socioeconomic and climate change-related scenarios. Hosted by PRIO and led by Research Professor Halvard Buhaug, the project builds on past and ongoing research activities; it brings together an unusually competent group of researchers with demonstrable skills in quantitative modeling and forecasting; it blends research experience (two ERC grantees) with proven research talents (two PhD candidates, three senior researchers with PhDs after 2013); and it strengthens collaboration between three institutions in three countries.

Publications from Cristin

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KLIMAFORSK-Stort program klima