Climate change, conflict and security scan: analysis of current thinking

Research reports and studies
April 2019

As the climate change–conflict–security nexus has gained attention in policy circles – particularly those associated with the international security apparatus, such as the UN Security Council – media coverage of this intersection of risk has ballooned, as have discussions on practical implications for policy-makers and operational agencies alike.

The research community has to date both helped and hindered understanding of the links between the issues, with new insights confined to peer-reviewed journals – to which many policy-makers and practitioners do not have access – and arguably an overconcentration on conceptualising the links and on methodological questions around attribution.

Things are starting to change. UN agencies and non-governmental organisations that have been operationalising ‘resilience’ for some years are now increasingly getting to grips with what resilience-building to intersecting climate, conflict and disaster risks looks like. Policy dialogues at the regional and international level are becoming more action-oriented, exemplified by the hashtag #doable at the 2019 Planetary Security Conference in The Hague. And robust research is increasingly being conducted, with a critical eye on the practical implications of the evidence being generated, using new methods to understand the climate change–conflict–security nexus.

The scan aims to help policy-makers, practitioners and academics who are short on time get to grips with the range of literature, discourse and social media coverage of the intersection of resilience, climate change, conflict and security. It has assessed over 350 pieces of literature and summarises 146. It intentionally emphasises academic journals, because these remain inaccessible to many, including those who take critical policy and funding decisions on how to prevent and respond to new manifestations of complex risk.

The scan is not intended to be read from start to finish, but provides signposts to allow readers to head straight to the sections of relevance for them. We do not claim to be exhaustive, but the material we present covers as much as we feel is needed for anyone wanting to understand the new insights emerging from the academic literature, the grey literature, the blogosphere and social media coverage.

This scan is the first of three, which will together provide a snapshot of everything written over the period of a year, between 2018 and 2019. Each instalment will cover a four-month period, with this first Scan covering April 2018 – July 2018.