Bergholt, D. and Lujala, P. 2012. Climate-related natural disasters, economic growth, and armed civil conflict. Journal of Peace Research 49: 147-162.
The authors write that "as global warming is expected to lead to an increase in both the severity and the frequency of climate-related disasters (IPCC, 2007), it is important to understand how climate change will affect economies, and whether these changes will translate into more armed conflicts, directly or via impacts on economic growth."
What was done
Working with (1) climate-related disaster data for the period 1980-2007 found in the Emergency Events Database developed by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, (2) economic growth data found in the Penn World Table Version 6.3 (Heston et al., 2009), and (3) armed civil conflict data tabulated in the annually updated UCDP/PRIO Armed Conflict Dataset (Gleditsch et al., 2002; Harbom and Wallensteen, 2010), Bergholt and Lujala examined "how climate-related natural disasters, including flash floods, surges, cyclones, blizzards, and severe storms, affect economic growth and peace," after which they focused on the question of "whether climate-related disasters have an indirect effect on conflict onset via slowdown in economic growth."
What was learned
In the first stage of their analysis, the two Norwegian researchers did indeed find that "climate-related disasters have a negative impact on growth," but they say that their analysis of disaster data and conflict onset shows that "climate-related natural disasters do not have any direct effect on conflict onset." And they additionally report that they "did not find any evidence that economic shocks caused by climate-related disasters have an effect on conflict onset," noting that their findings "are similar to those in the recent cross-country study by Ciccone (2011)."
What it means
In the concluding words of the authors, "storms and floods adversely affect people and production inputs such as land, infrastructure, and factories, which in turn have a negative impact on the aggregate economy," but they determined that, "interestingly, these negative income shocks do not increase the risk of armed civil conflict as predicted by prominent studies in the field (Collier and Hoeffler, 2004; Fearon and Laitin, 2003; Miguel et al., 2004)."
Ciccone, A. 2011. Economic shocks and civil conflict: A comment. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 3: 215-227.
Collier, P. and Hoeffler, A. 2004. Greed and grievance in civil war. Oxford Economic Papers 56: 563-596.
Fearon, J.D. and Laitin, D.D. 2003. Ethnicity, insurgency, and civil war. American Political Science Review 97: 75-90.
Gleditsch, N.P., Wallensteen, P., Eriksson, M., Sollenberg, M. and Strand, H. 2002. Armed conflict 1946-2001: A new dataset. Journal of Peace Research 39: 615-637.
Harbom, L. and Wallensteen, P. 2010. Armed conflicts, 1946-2009. Journal of Peace Research 47: 501-509.
Heston, A., Summers, R. and Aten, B. 2009. Penn World Table, Version 6.3. Center for International Comparisons, University of Pennsylvania (CICUP) (http://pwt.econ.upenn.edu/).
IPCC. 2007. Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Geneva, Switzerland.
Miguel, E., Satyanath, S. and Sergenti, E. 2004. Economic shocks and civil conflict: An instrumental variables approach. Journal of Political Economy 112: 725-754.Reviewed 27 June 2012