Book chapter
Open access

The missing link. Environmental change, institutions and violent conflicts

Published inResearch for sustainable development. Foundations, experiences, and perspectives, Editors Wiesman, U. & Hurni, H., p. 451-466
PublisherBern : Geographica Bernensia
Publication date2011

In current debates about climate change, the environment is often seen as a potential cause of violent conflicts. According to this view, environmental degradation will significantly increase the stress put on various societies, particularly in so-called weak and fragile states, and thereby cause political destabilisation and violence while jeopardising national and international security. Drawing on research conducted within the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) North-South programme, this article shows that establishing such direct causal links is simplistic and reductionist. While recognising that climate change, and especially resource scarcity, can lead to violent conflict, we argue that, when trying to understand the relationships between changes in the environment and violent conflict, it is crucial to put social and human dimensions at the centre of the analysis. Climate change may render human interaction and social regulation more difficult, but it will hardly ever directly affect the probability of violence. Climate policy will not bring about peace any more than peace policy will improve the climate. In other words, the missing link in current debates about environmental conflicts is the key role played by political, social, and cultural institutions in mediating between the two terms of the equation.

  • Environmental change
  • Resource scarcity
  • Violent conflict
  • Institutions
  • Statehood
Citation (ISO format)
GOETSCHEL, Laurent, PECLARD, Didier. The missing link. Environmental change, institutions and violent conflicts. In: Research for sustainable development. Foundations, experiences, and perspectives. Bern : Geographica Bernensia, 2011. p. 451–466.
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Book chapter (Published version)
  • PID : unige:116486

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