Socio-economic Consequences of Climate Change

  • Mehdi Shiva

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Extreme weather events, armed conflicts and migration are considered as the most likely, and most substantial, risk factors of 2015, 2016 and 2017 in the latest Global Risk Report by World Economic Forum (World Economic Forum, 2017). That these factors are in turn influenced by climatic conditions is also a well-documented consensus. As global warming become an unescapable reality (IPCC, 2014), my thesis attempts to make a contribution to understanding of its consequences by quantifying the magnitude and significance of the influence of climatic factors on conflict and migration.

    An overview of the thesis is provided in the first chapter.

    The main aim of the second chapter is to provide a comprehensive empirical study of the impact of climatic factors on the onset of internal armed conflicts. There is no firm consensus in the literature regarding a coherent set of factors that cause armed conflicts. In particular, while there are new studies emerging which examine this issue, conclusions about the role of climatic factors remain rather ambiguous. The contribution of this chapter is to carry out a systematic econometric study of the role of variables commonly used in the literature in order to establish a robust empirical specification which could aid quantifying the contribution of climatic factors. We find that (i) climate warming is instrumental in raising the probability of onset of armed conflicts, and (ii) there is an interdependency in the way temperature and precipitation affect the onset of conflicts: dryness (low precipitation) increases the effect of temperature growth.

    High levels of political and economic development are widely regarded as important factors that contribute to sustained civil peace. However, repeated occurrences of conflicts in democratic regimes and their complete absence in some rich countries with non-democratic regimes are counter examples that cannot be simply regarded as exceptions. Given this anomaly, the third chapter examines whether the influence of development and democracy are contingent on each other. Using a robust empirical specification that takes account of climatic factors, we find that economic development per se reduces the probability of conflicts but its impact is contingent on the extent of political development and that the latter might in fact reverse the overall impact of former.

    Demographic projections suggest that climate change will be responsible for a large displacement of population worldwide (Gemenne et al., 2012). Evidence shows that a major part of such displacements primarily take place within national borders in the first instance. The fourth chapter investigates the nature of internal migration within Iran which has experienced substantial internal migration and is also subject to significant climatic variations. We find that even though climatic variables are not the leading factors of internal migration in Iran, their role, especially as push factors, is eminent: It appears people tend to leave warmer and/or drier regions, and select nearby destinations which offer better economic opportunities and welfare provision.
    Date of Award2018
    Original languageEnglish
    SponsorsScottish Institute for Research in Economics
    SupervisorAndrzej Kwiatkowski (Supervisor) & Hassan Molana (Supervisor)

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