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Climate change and the opportunity cost of conflict [Environmental Sciences]
PNAS ( IF 9.580 ) Pub Date : 2020-01-13 , DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1914829117
Kevin R. Roche, Michèle Müller-Itten, David N. Dralle, Diogo Bolster, Marc F. Müller

A growing empirical literature associates climate anomalies with increased risk of violent conflict. This association has been portrayed as a bellwether of future societal instability as the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events are predicted to increase. This paper investigates the theoretical foundation of this claim. A seminal microeconomic model of opportunity costs—a mechanism often thought to drive climate–conflict relationships—is extended by considering realistic changes in the distribution of climate-dependent agricultural income. Results advise caution in using empirical associations between short-run climate anomalies and conflicts to predict the effect of sustained shifts in climate regimes: Although war occurs in bad years, conflict may decrease if agents expect more frequent bad years. Theory suggests a nonmonotonic relation between climate variability and conflict that emerges as agents adapt and adjust their behavior to the new income distribution. We identify 3 measurable statistics of the income distribution that are each unambiguously associated with conflict likelihood. Jointly, these statistics offer a unique signature to distinguish opportunity costs from competing mechanisms that may relate climate anomalies to conflict.
更新日期:2020-01-14

 

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