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Climate Change, Rainfall and Social Conflict in Africa

Climate change is now a top agenda item for the global security community.In Africa, climate effects will be severe and capacity for mitigation and adaptation is low, which means that if climate change leads to conflict, Africa will likely be the first to suffer. Yet, understanding and responding to the threat of climate-driven instability in Africa requires a more nuanced definition of conflict: one that recognizes episodic unrest, riots, and demonstrations as well as interstate or civil war. Rainfall has a surprising influence on the prevalence of social conflict: the new Social Conflict in Africa Database reveals that in recent decades, conflict events have been more common in extremely wet and dry years than in years of normal rainfall. Climate forecasts indicate that future rainfall patterns in Africa will become more variable, with more extreme wet and dry years, raising the specter of an increase in social conflict.