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ERC

CLIMSEC Report Summary

Project ID: 648291
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - CLIMSEC (Climate Variability and Security Threats)

Reporting period: 2015-09-01 to 2017-02-28

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Recent uprisings across the world have accentuated claims that food insecurity is an important trigger of political violence. Is the Arab Spring representative of a general climate-conflict pattern, where severe droughts and other climate anomalies are a key driving force? Research to date has failed to conclude on a robust relationship but several notable theoretical and methodological shortcomings limit inference. CLIMSEC will address these research gaps. It asks: How does climate variability affect dynamics of political violence? This overarching research question will be addressed through the accomplishment of four key objectives: (1) Investigate how food security impacts of climate variability affect political violence; (2) Investigate how economic impacts of climate variability affect political violence; (3) Conduct short-term forecasts of political violence in response to food and economic shocks; and (4) Develop a comprehensive, testable theoretical model of security implications of climate variability. To achieve these objectives, CLIMSEC will advance the research frontier on theoretical as well as analytical accounts. Central in this endeavor is conceptual and empirical disaggregation. Instead of assuming states and calendar years as unitary and fixed entities, the project proposes causal processes that act at multiple temporal and spatial scales, involve various types of actors, and lead to very different forms of outcomes depending on the context. The empirical component will make innovative use of new geo-referenced data and methods; focus on a broad range of insecurity outcomes, including non-violent resistance; and combine rigorous statistical models with out-of-sample simulations and qualitative case studies for theorizing and validation of key findings. Based at PRIO, the project will be led by Research Professor Halvard Buhaug, a leading scholar on climate change and security.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

Work since the commencement of the project can be summarized as follows:
* A PhD project investigating the conditions under which climatological disasters and extreme weather events affect the risk and dynamics of political instability. Several working papers are in progress but no results have been published to date (June 2017)
* A major update and expansion of the PRIO-GRID spatial data framework, including a user-friendly data portal and visualization tool. The new PRIO-GRID v. 2.0 was released in November 2015 and has since been maintained with financial support from this project. This data framework is a major achievement and an important contribution to the community of scholars conducting advanced quantitative analyses of armed conflict with spatial data.
* A major update and expansion of the Urban Social Disorder (USD) dataset. The new USD v. 2.0 will be released in June 2017. This constitutes the only available catalogue of event-specific information on political disturbance events (strikes, protests, riots, terrorist attacks) in national capitals and other major cities since 1960, now expanded from Africa and Asia to also cover the Middle East and Central and South America.
* So far, the (June 2017) project has resulted in three peer-reviewed articles in leading international journals: one article setting the agenda for future research on climate and conflict (Buhaug, PEPS 2016); one article simulating future conflict activity until year 2100 along alternative climate change-sensitive socioeconomic pathways (Hegre et al., ERL 2016); and one article presenting a novel cross-national assessment of drought-conflict connections among vulnerable social groups across Africa and Asia (von Uexkull et al., PNAS 2016).

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

By definition, the new datasets released as distinct deliverables of the CLIMSEC project, the PRIO-GRID 2.0 framework and the USD 2.0 dataset, provide new opportunities for research and facilitate the combination and analysis of geo-referenced data in a rigorous and space/time-consistent fashion. These products clearly redefined the state-of-the-art in spatial data framework and systematic data on urban political violence.
The Hegre et al. study (Environmental Research Letters 2016) presented the first attempt to simulate security implications of alternative future climate change and socioeconomic changes. This is an important contribution to a field that thus far has made little progress in quantifying direct social implications of different climate change scenarios.
Also, the study by von Uexkull et al. (PNAS 2016) represented a clear step beyond the research frontier by focusing on social groups and their level of agricultural dependence and climate sensitivity, as well as their political and socioeconomic context – as opposed to earlier research, which either has been conducted at a too aggregate level (countries) or has been limited to single countries and small regions (e.g., Kenya).
Partly a consequence of the PI’s reputation as a leading international scholar in climate security research, the project is involved with ongoing work at the European Commission / Joint Research Centre to improve their Global Conflict Risk Index and early warning system.
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