The environmental geopolitics of climate change and violent conflict
AffiliationOffice for Environmental Programs
Document TypeMasters Coursework thesis
Access StatusOnly available to University of Melbourne staff and students, login required
© 2017 Courtland Adams
The potential links between climate change and conflict are becoming an increasing focus of academic research, and the claim that climate change can heighten the risk of conflict is now supported by many powerful world actors. While this discourse is reproduced by policy-makers and popular media, it is grounded in academic research claiming a causal association between climate and conflict. Critical researchers warn that climate-conflict research is empirically weak, and the discourse that it gives rise to is counter-productive to peace and development efforts, and undermines mitigation and adaptation. This thesis advances critical geopolitical knowledge about climate change and conflict. It aims to uncover the spatial representations of formal/academic geopolitics by examining the ways bias, power and ideology are shaping the geographic distribution of ‘at-risk’ places. It conducts a systematic review of the academic literature on climate change and violent conflict, and analyses 124 core academic journal articles to understand which places are said to be most at risk, and who and when such claims are made. It finds that data availability, access to research sites, topicality and strategic interests shape the representation of at-risk places, and that much of the academic literature linking climate change to violent conflict is identifying at-risk places according to excessively general and biased sampling criteria. It argues then that researchers should avoid broad speculations about processes and places at risk, and select case studies according to more balanced criteria.
Keywordsclimate change; violent conflict; critical geopolitics; systematic review
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