Much has been written about how rising temperatures will affect climate and sea levels, but global warming is expected to dish up a host of other catastrophes as well. A new study published in the Journal of Peace Research is the first to take into account the effects of changing weather patterns on violence and the strength of governments around the world – and certain locations will be more susceptible to food violence than others.
The study was conducted by Bear Braumoeller, associate professor of political science at Ohio State University, and former doctoral students Benjamin Jones of the University of Mississippi and Eleonora Mattiacci of Amherst University. Together, they concluded that extreme weather, such as droughts and floods, could hurt agricultural production, which will likely lead to violence in affected regions or elsewhere by those who are desperate for food. “We’ve already started to see climate change as an issue that won’t just put the coasts under water, but as something that could cause food riots in some parts of the world,” Braumoeller said.
The researchers used data recorded about the effects of food insecurity and state vulnerability on the occurrence of violent uprisings in Africa between the years 1991 to 2011. Measurements for food shocks and the vulnerability of countries were also taken into account. For food shocks related to climate change, the team analyzed rainfall, temperature and the international prices of food — including sudden spikes in prices. To determine which countries are most vulnerable, the researchers analyzed the country’s dependence on agricultural production, its imports, its wealth, and the strength of its political institutions.
In the report, Braumoeller explained that the countries that imported food would be most affected by climate shocks as prices increase — even if they weren’t experiencing “significant weather impacts themselves.” “We found that the most vulnerable countries are those that have weak political institutions, are relatively poor and rely more on agriculture,” said Braumoeller. “Less vulnerable countries can better handle the problems that droughts or food price fluctuations create.”
This data is important because it provides insight as to how more developed countries, such as the United States, can respond to these challenges. It is “crucial” to break the links between food insecurity and violence, said Braumoeller, and countries can help accomplish this in a number of ways. A short-term solution is to provide food aid to offset shortages, whereas long-term efforts include strengthening government institutions and helping them invest in “green growth” policies aimed at improving the economy.
Braumoeller said, ”Development aid is important now and it is likely to be even more important in the future as we look for ways to increase climate resilience.”
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