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Tech & Science The Depressing Reason More Drought Could Lead To Less Conflict

13:45  14 january  2020
13:45  14 january  2020 Source:   gizmodo.com.au

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The findings show that drought is strongly correlated with conflict due to limited resources. In an odd and depressing twist, though, the research indicates drought is becoming more common in parts of the world, and that could lead to drop in conflict because going to war over dry land might simply

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Climate chaos is a threat multiplier. In Syria, Yemen, and Sudan, research shows that climate change-fuelled drought exacerbated regional conflict.

The popular press often takes these findings and extrapolates them out to say that as drought becomes more common, so will war. But a new study shows that may not be quite right.

The findings show that drought is strongly correlated with conflict due to limited resources. In an odd and depressing twist, though, the research indicates drought is becoming more common in parts of the world, and that could lead to drop in conflict because going to war over dry land might simply not be worth it.

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While researchers agree that climate change can exacerbate human conflict , there are many that caution against using it to explain the root causes of war.

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The study published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences specifically examines scientists’ belief that one of the major links between climate change and violent conflict is the cost versus the benefit to agricultural profits, which was formalized in an oft-cited 2009 paper. The findings in that paper show that during particularly dry years, it’s more worth it for nations to recruit agricultural workers to stop farming and go to war to obtain more farming territory, because even though they’ll miss out on the profits from that year’s agriculture, they can make up the lost profits with their increased landholdings in the longer term. But if drought becomes normal, it doesn’t make much sense to obtain new landholdings because they might not be very productive anyway.

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Drought can have even more far-reaching impacts when it affects a region that supplies agricultural products to other regions. Droughts can lead to war, as people are forced to gain access to water from outside of their region. Sudan's conflict in Darfur was partially a result of decades of drought .

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“There is a robust empirical literature that shows that conflict is indeed more prevalent during abnormally dry years,” Michele Muller-Itten, one of the study’s authors, told Earther. “However... the dry years are no longer ‘abnormal,’ and that changes the incentive structure.”

Indeed, the new findings show that intra-regional war is more common when conditions are drier than average. But what’s considered average is changing with many regions trending toward less rain overall. Conditions will continue shifting, and Muller-Itten said that as drought becomes more common, there may not be as much to gain from going to war to obtain more resources.

“After all, the reason why attacking a neighbour’s land is attractive is because victory secures more landholdings for the future,” she said. “If the dry year is the anomaly, these extra landholdings are attractive. But if all future years are bleak, the incentive for conflict disappears again.”

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Unsustainable agricultural policies meant that the drought led to the broad collapse of farming in northeastern Syria. “The uprising has more to do with the government’s failure to respond to the drought , and with broader feelings of discontent in rural areas, and the growing gap between rich and

Most of the economic impacts of drought are associated with agriculture and the income generated from crops. In times of drought , the lack of This then depletes the natural resources of the new area, can create conflicts among neighboring populations and takes workers away from the original area.

In other words, there’s no point in attacking your neighbouring nations for arable land if your neighbours’ land isn’t arable in the first place, and if conditions show no signs of getting better. The context of drought also matters, though. In some places, average rainfall may stay the same even as droughts get worse (like California, for example), something which Muller-Itten said could make conflict more likely. But in some places where drought becomes permanent or semi-permanent, conflict may drop. That’s why she said researchers need to look not just at rainfall’s changing average but also peaks and valleys.

The study doesn’t account for all impacts of drought on conflict, and Muller-Itten stressed that the study doesn’t show that we’ll see less war in a heating world. Other variables, such as forced migration due to a lack of water for example, could increase the likelihood of war in some places. In 2015, for instance, Syria saw its worst drought in 900 years—one research shows was made more likely by climate change—as it was in the throes of a civil war. The devastating conditions forced thousands to emigrate within the nation, which aggravated instability in the region.

“For many combinations of parameters it still increases conflict,” she said. “But the goal was more to show that you cannot make a simple extrapolation.”

Queensland graziers rejoice as storms bring rain to central west .
A modest 23mm of rain falls in the town of Blackall, but it is enough to raise spirits in a part of Queensland where the drought is a day-to-day battle — and there's more rain on the way.Gretchen Hayman and her family help run Milray Station, just outside of Blackall.

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