Hell and High Water: Precipitation Shocks and Conflict Violence in the Philippines

Hell and High Water: Precipitation Shocks and Conflict Violence in the Philippines

Source: Political Geography, 2016

Author(s): Joshua Eastin

Countries: Philippines

Topics: Climate Change, Conflict Causes, Livelihoods

Added: 17/05/2017


As climate change destabilizes global weather patterns, concern is rising over the potential risks these changes might pose to peace and stability in developing states. A vigorous research program has emerged to address the relationship between climate change and civil conflict, with two special issues of Political Geography (2007, 2014) devoted to the subject. A common expectation is that if conflict and violence are to proliferate, then precipitation shocksddroughts, floods, and stormsdare likely to be key causal factors. Scholars anticipate these events to influence political violence via their effects on subsistence resource accessibility and livelihood opportunities in vulnerable states. Despite a growing number of studies examining these phenomena, robust conclusions and isolation of clear causal processes remain elusive (Bernauer, Bohmelt, € & Koubi, 2012; Buhaug, 2015; Salehyan, 2014). Researchers have found precipitation shocks to be positively (Raleigh & Kniveton, 2012) and negatively (Salehyan & Hendrix, 2014) associated with conflict violence, as well as to demonstrate minimal correlation (Slettebak, 2012; Theisen, Holtermann, & Buhaug, 2011/12). This “cacophony of findings” has led to calls for future studies to incorporate greater specificity and context in research design and hypothesis testing to determine if, when, and under what conditions climatic processes generate conflict or some other social outcome (Buhaug, 2015; Salehyan, 2014; Seter, 2016). Accordingly, this study draws on a unique micro-level dataset of armed intra-state conflict in the Philippines, 2001e2007, to analyze the impact of precipitation shocks on the incidence and severity of the country's four largest and longest running civil wars, those waged by insurgent groups: the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA), Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and Abu Sayyaff Group (ASG) against the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). In doing so, this study contributes to the literature in several ways: First, while the bulk of existing quantitative analyses of climate and conflict assess the risks precipitation shocks pose to conflict onset or to low-level political violence, this study takes conflict as a starting point and examines the impacts these phenomena can have on its incidence and severity. This distinction is important because many of the world's most protracted and violent conflicts occur in states that are also among the most vulnerable to environmental shock (Eastin, 2016). Thus, analyzing these linkages also has the potential to build insight into conflict intractability. Additionally, isolating causal drivers of conflict escalation is important because the factors that explain why conflicts begin do not necessarily correspond to those that explain their internal dynamics (Lacina, 2006). Second, while the majority of studies evaluating conflict violence incorporate pooled conflict data, this study draws on actor-disaggregated data that identify the agentsdinsurgents or state military forcesdwho initiate each attack and who experience each battle death or casualty. The utility of this approach arises from the ability to parse whether climate variability influences the behavior of state military forces and insurgent groups in distinct ways. This approach can also corroborate causal arguments regarding the identity of those agents waging violence, and address whether climatic variability renders a net positive or negative impact on the capabilities of distinct combatant group types. Finally, this study draws data from the Philippines, a tropical agrarian country among the world's most vulnerable to climate change and also among its most conflictprone, and thus provides an opportunity to examine the implications of precipitation shocks on conflict dynamics.... 


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