Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 05/2009

Climate Change and Conflict: The Migration Link

Nils Petter Gleditsch, Idean Salehyan, Ragnhild Nordås

May 2007

International Peace Institute


In October 2003, a report to the US Department of Defense received wide public attention for presenting a grim future scenario with warring states and massive social disturbance as a result of dramatic climate change. Although not intended to be a prediction, the authors nevertheless argued the plausibility of a scenario for rapid climate change which could result in a significant drop in the human carrying capacity of the earth’s environment—food, water, and energy shortages, as well as extreme weather patterns. In turn, resource constraints and environmental damage could lead to geopolitical destabilization, skirmishes and even war.