Food Scarcity and State Vulnerability: Unpacking the Link Between Climate Variability and Violent Unrest

Jones, Benjamin T., Eleonora Mattiacci, and Bear F. Braumoeller
Journal of Peace Research, 54(3): 335—350, 2017

Increased scholarly focus on climate variability and its implications has given rise to a substantial literature on the relationship between climate-induced food insecurity and violent conflict. In this article, we theorize this relationship as contingent on the institutional and structural vulnerability of the state. States’ institutional and structural capabilities and constraints – such as the strength of the agricultural sector and domestic regime type – influence the probability that climate-induced food insecurity will translate into conflict, because they determine the degree to which countries are able to successfully address insecurity. We estimate the effect of food insecurity and state vulnerability on the occurrence of violent uprisings in Africa for the years 1991–2011. We find that these effects are interactive, with state vulnerability moderating the impact of food insecurity on the likelihood of violence. We also find that capable governance is an even better guarantor of peace than good weather. We conclude that a two-pronged approach that both combats the impact of climate variability on food insecurity and strengthens government institutions would be a much more effective strategy for preventing violent uprisings than either policy would be in isolation.