Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

No Connection Between Environmental Crises And Armed Conflict, New Study Argues

Date:
December 17, 2007
Source:
Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Summary:
Climate advocate Al Gore accepted the Nobel Peace Prize this December 10th. New Norwegian research suggests, however, that there is no connection between environmental crises and armed conflict. This may seem paradoxical -- lands where resources are heavily exploited show a clear connection to a lack of armed conflict. Or alternatively, nations troubled by war during the research period had lower exploitation rates of their natural resources. The findings give researchers solid empirical support for stating that environmental scarcity is not the reason behind violent conflict.

Helga Malmin Binningsbø (left) and Indra de Soysa from NTNU's Department of Sociology and Political Science have a solid empirical support for stating that environmental scarcity is not the reason behind violent conflict.
Credit: Image courtesy of Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Climate advocate Al Gore accepted the Nobel Peace Prize this December 10th. New Norwegian research suggests, however, that there is no connection between environmental crises and armed conflict.

Related Articles


”Extensive climate changes may alter and threaten the living conditions of much of mankind. They may induce large-scale migration and lead to greater competition for the earth’s resources. Such changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the world’s most vulnerable countries. There may be increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states.”

A broader concept of peace

This is an excerpt from the Nobel Committee’s explanation for the award of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, shared equally by the former US Vice President Al Gore Jr. and the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).

The Nobel Committee interprets “working for peace” as including saving the Earth’s environment. Researchers, advocacy groups, politicians and the media have all highlighted local resource crises as the reason for a host of armed conflicts around the globe. The premise underlying the Nobel Committee’s expanded definition of peace is that there is a causal connection between natural resource shortages and violent conflict.

But is that true? Not according to a new study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

Surprising results

A series of case studies in recent years from areas stricken by conflict has helped develop a theoretical basis for the claim that natural resource scarcity leads to armed conflict. Darfur, Sudan, is a recent example of this presumed causal connection, with Rwanda, Haiti and Somalia as other examples.

Helga Malmin Binningsbø, Indra de Soysa and Nils Petter Gleditsch, from NTNU’s Department of Sociology and Political Science, looked at the environmental pressures in 150 countries in the period from 1961 to 1999. By using an internationally recognized technique for measuring a country’s environmental sustainability –“The Ecological Footprint” – the researchers were able to compare these numbers with statistics on armed conflict during the same period.

Their conclusion may seem paradoxical—lands where resources are heavily exploited show a clear connection to a lack of armed conflict. Or alternatively, nations troubled by war during the research period had lower exploitation rates of their natural resources. The findings give researchers solid empirical support for stating that environmental scarcity is not the reason behind violent conflict.

--A higher Ecological Footprint is negatively correlated with conflict onset, controlling for income effects and other factors, the researchers say in their article, published in the peer-reviewed journal Population and Environment.

-- Of course people fight over resources, that’s not our argument. We believe, rather, that we have a strong scientific case against the Neomalthusian model, says Binningsbø.

Darfur

-- I have seen with my own eyes how climate change and resource scarcity, particularly when it comes to water and grazing lands, can fuel tensions, says Jan Egeland, director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI).

Egeland was formerly the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, responsible for refugee issues, and has seen first-hand many conflicts across the globe that surely could have been caused by environmental crises.

Egeland has previously stated that the Darfur conflict was the result of an environmental crisis. He is now a little more uncertain of the causal connection.

-- That resource scarcity in specific areas strengthens existing conflicts is something that I have no doubt of, he says. (But) I still believe that this year’s peace prize award was sound.

Resources and populations

In their article, the NTNU researchers challenge a popular school of thought, the Neomalthusian school. They see climate change and the over consumption of natural resources as a modern day illustration of Thomas Malthus’ theory.

Thomas Malthus (1766-1834) developed the well-known theory that a country’s food production cannot keep up with its population growth over the long run. Starvation, war and early death would regulate the balance between food availability and population numbers. That means that the bulk of the population would live a minimalist existence.

But Malthus, who lived at the end of the 1700s, couldn’t predict later technological breakthroughs, such as the Green Revolution, which have altered his bleak global caloric intake equation.

The Ecological Footprint

Techniques developed by the Global Footprint Network, an international research network, form the underpinnings for the NTNU group’s research numbers and methods.

-- The Environmental Footprint describes a country’s resource consumption compared to its ecological capacity, explain Binningsbø and de Soysa.

The Ecological Footprint measures humankind’s exploitation of natural resources. In other words, how much do you have, and how much do you use?

The method is widely used as a measurement technique, but has also been criticised. Researchers have argued that the method can only be applied on a global basis, in as much as countries trade with each other, and therefore aren’t necessarily solely dependent on their own natural resources.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Norwegian University of Science and Technology. "No Connection Between Environmental Crises And Armed Conflict, New Study Argues." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 December 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071216133126.htm>.
Norwegian University of Science and Technology. (2007, December 17). No Connection Between Environmental Crises And Armed Conflict, New Study Argues. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071216133126.htm
Norwegian University of Science and Technology. "No Connection Between Environmental Crises And Armed Conflict, New Study Argues." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071216133126.htm (accessed December 18, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) — The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Arctic Warming Twice As Fast As Rest Of Planet

Arctic Warming Twice As Fast As Rest Of Planet

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) — The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, thanks in part to something called feedback. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ivory Trade Boom Swamps Law Efforts

Ivory Trade Boom Swamps Law Efforts

Reuters - Business Video Online (Dec. 17, 2014) — Demand for ivory has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of African elephants and now a conservation report says the illegal trade is overwhelming efforts to enforce the law. Amy Pollock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Indictments in West Virginia Chemical Spill Case

Indictments in West Virginia Chemical Spill Case

AP (Dec. 17, 2014) — A grand jury indicted four former executives of Freedom Industries, the company at the center of the Jan. 9, 2014 chemical spill in Charleston, West Virginia. The spill contaminated the Elk River and the water supply of 300,000 people. (Dec. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins