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Migration and violent conflict

Migration and violent conflict
Policy failure on climate change is going to put an enormous pressure on both the military and the health communities because, in effect, they will be our ‘first responders’ to the consequences of failing to address climate change. Anybody who thinks that the world that’s 2 or 4 degrees hotter will be healthy or secure is kidding themselves, they haven’t actually understood what climate change means. - The biggest indirect effect of climate change on health is social change which includes migration and conflict.
We in the military organization operate across the whole of the world, we need to understand the environment in which we are going to be operating and we need to understand the political, environmental and other stresses that might actually precipitate conflict in the future. - It’s not that climate change itself is likely to start a conflict, but the impact of the second or third order
consequences: when people lose their lands, livelihood, what do they do? Do they migrate? Do they migrate to another country, between countries? Is it organized or is it chaos? Does it cause tension? Or if they have no livelihood do they find something which is legal? Or are they vulnerable to recruiting into organized crime, or even terrorism? Soldiers and Ministry of Defence, these sorts of people begin to talk more openly about the threat that climate change poses to security, wars that are already happening around the world, the conflicts that will happen due to water shortage, fuel shortage, food, land shortages, displaced people, refugees.
These issues are increasingly already with us and are going to become a much greater problem over the next 10-15 years. - There’s a band that runs around the world, centered on the equator where there’s already problems of health, food shortages, water shortages, demographic challenges and we have seen conflicts there in the past. Conflicts partly due to results of governments in these countries not necessarily having the capacity and resilience to deal with it, this is where climate change can have its greatest effect. It’s also where the world’s trade routes run.
We are a globalized society; we are all dependent on trade in some form or other, imports, exports and in particular for us in Europe, energy, but also food and other goods coming from Middle East and further field. Same for China, 75% of their oil comes through the Malacca Straits. So, we got a global problem which is potentially going to affect global stability. -So, when you add those things up: disease, economic collapse, plague, pestilence, famine, starvation… you end up with mass migration. And if you get mass migration into resource-poor areas you get conflicts, and you get wars. And I come back to the fact that health has always been driven world-wide by poverty and war.
And in the end that’s what’s going to be the most rapid ramping up, i think, impact on the health in coming few years. -If there are food shortages or resource shortages those powerful nations that have military might, will in the end when pushed defend the interests of their societies using whatever means at their disposal. -Many of the areas of the world which are suffering from serious health problems, serious security problems, serious climate change problems are the same. -All of us are at risk because we live in such a tightly connected world. -For too long, i think, climate change has been framed as an issue that effects economies or affects polar bears.
-But the military security part is the key piece of the jigsaw.

Read this text before watching the video above.

We have seen that global warming will have direct impacts on health, primarily due to changes in the frequency of extreme weather including heat, drought and heavy rain. We have also observed examples of indirect effects mediated through natural systems such as changing infectious disease patterns and food and water-borne diseases. Finally we have observed the effects on social systems, such as community displacement, food insecurity and mental stress. Now we will touch on how all those factors may contribute to problems of mass migration and armed conflict.

Evidence of climate change’s effects on conflict and civil unrest is complex and contested, however in many statistical studies the influence of climate variability on violent conflict is enormous. Climate change will increasingly shape national security conditions and policies. There will also be trans-national impacts on shared water resources and fish stocks, having the potential to increase rivalry between nations (IPCC Chapters 12 and 19).

Watch the video above to get a sense of the factors that can trigger mass migration and violent conflict.

Then move on to the discussion.


D. McCoy and N.Watts. 2015. Climate Change: Health Impacts and Opportunities a Summary and Discussion of the IPCC Working Group 2 Report.

IPCC, 2014: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Field, C.B., V.R. Barros, D.J. Dokken, K.J. Mach, M.D. Mastrandrea, T.E. Bilir, M. Chatterjee, K.L. Ebi, Y.O. Estrada, R.C. Genova, B. Girma, E.S. Kissel, A.N. Levy, S. MacCracken, P.R. Mastrandrea, and L.L.White (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, 1132 pp.

For suggestions for further reading, please see the ‘See Also’ section at the end of this page.

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Global Health, Conflict and Violence

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