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Climate Change and Conflict: Do Warming Temperatures Affect Conflict?

Lauren Kay Chiaradio
Faculty Adviser(s)

Continuously increasing temperatures have brought into question the possibility that human caused climate change poses threats to both national and human security, including the possibility that increasing temperatures could be a cause of wars. There has yet to be scientific consensus in the social sciences that wars have occurred or will occur due to increasing temperatures. However, the theoretical backing of this potential relationship is compelling, especially when indirect links and mechanisms involving human caused climate change’s effects on agriculture are taken into account. To test for a relationship between increasing temperatures and the occurrence of war, data from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, which mapped annual mean temperature anomalies by country, was paired with data from The Correlates of War Project, which documented the occurrences of wars worldwide. This data was then organized to list the level of temperature anomaly and war status of 197 nations for each year from 1977 to 2007. Finally, statistical analysis was used to test for a relationship between increasing temperatures and whether a nation was at war. The results of this analysis failed to find statistically significant evidence supporting a causal relationship between increasing temperature and whether a nation is at war. However, this does not rule out the possibility of a relationship between increasing temperature and the occurrence of war but instead encourages that research in this area of inquiry is continued. 


Lauren Kay Chiaradio is graduating from Salem College in May with a Bachelors of Art degree in political science and French. She has also received a University Diploma in French Studies from the Catholic University of Lyon. Following graduation, Lauren will attend graduate school to study international relations. During her time at Salem, Lauren has served as Head Delegate of the Salem Model United Nations Team, the Chair of the Sustainability Fund, and as the Section Editor for News and Politics at the Salemite.