What are the linkages between climate change, economic growth and conflict?


The relationship between climate change and conflict is the subject of voluminous recent research. With a few exceptions, this literature has not been able to establish the existence of a robust, systematic, causal relationship. This may reflect the absence of such a relationship in the real world. Or, this is simply a consequence of the theoretical and methodological limitations of existing works. This project revisited this issue along two dimensions.

First, it carefully specified the mechanism through which climate may affect the incidence of conflict. In particular, by focusing on the chain linking climatic conditions, economic welfare, and conflict, the study emphasized how the latter part of this link depends critically on the institutional features of the political system. Second, at a methodological level the research team’s measures of key climatic conditions (temperature and precipitation) included exogenous figures of both economic conditions and conflict. Thereby, it solved the simultaneity problem that had plagued the literature in the past. The results provided a more reliable basis for testing the theoretical predictions of the project team and for evaluating policy.

Project Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Conflict
  • Democracy
  • Economic growth


  • Economics
  • Environment
  • Political science

Relevant Countries

  • All countries


This project, started in 2009, has been completed.

Contact the project team

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Research team

Vally Koubi
University of Berne

Gabriele Spilker
Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich

Anna Kalbhenn
Associated Member
Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich

Wolfgang Kinzelbach
Associated Member
Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne

Tobias Siegfried
Associated Member
Columbia University in the City of New York