The fundamental purpose of this Factbook is to provide an overview on conflict and cooperation around the world that relates to environmental change and to allow policy-makers, experts and interested members of the public to search, access, understand and compare such instances of conflict, conflict resolution and peacebuilding. As such, it ultimately seeks to contribute to preventing, transforming and resolving these types of conflict, by serving as a knowledge platform that helps our users to better understand the drivers behind environmental conflict and cooperation and to harness the lessons learned from earlier (non-)interventions.
The Factbook features two principal ways of accessing the information. First, you can browse the interactive map, zooming in and out and/or filtering cases along various dimensions relating to conflict drivers, causal pathways, resources, conflict intensities, tried and potential conflict resolution strategies and more. Second, you can search the tabular view of the database. Once you come across a conflict of particular interest, you can access a factsheet on this conflict that synthesizes the case’s conflict history and resolution efforts and includes a host of background information, much of it visualized in graphs. Much of this material can already be downloaded in a pdf file, and we are planning to further improve the ease with which this material can be used for presentations and discussion (giving due reference, we hope).
The Factbook was designed in conjunction with a report commissioned by the G7, A New Climate for Peace. It draws on the climate-fragility compound risks developed for this report, extends the case studies contained in the report and features additional empirical illustrations of the risks. It goes beyond this report, however, insofar as it also looks at environmental changes beyond climate change – and insofar as it is consciously designed as an ‘open-ended’ project that seeks to extend the conversation about and analysis of the foreign policy consequences of global environmental change into the future.
An invitation to participate
The Factbook is designed not only as an open-ended, but also as an open project. We emphatically welcome suggestions for extending and improving our cases and the analytical tools that we provide for examining and comparing them. We are therefore looking for partners who are interested in contributing conceptually, empirically or financially to further improving this tool. As we launch this Factbook, we already have plans for extending it in multiple ways and are exploring various funding opportunities. If you want to suggest interesting new cases or features, if you know better about cases already featured or have better data sources to recommend, or if you generally have any comments, please contact us.
A project of this scale is almost invariably ‘work in progress’. We are aware that many cases involve contentious issues, certainly from the point of view of the parties of the conflict, but also from the point of view of those who study these conflicts. We are more than happy to consider alternative perspectives on the conflict and cooperation syntheses we provide, although we reserve the right to editorial amendments as we see fit.
A note on the scientific debate
There are fierce scientific disagreements about the extent to which environmental changes, and climate change in particular, can usefully be linked to conflict outcomes. Although this is a perfectly legitimate academic debate, we believe that it can sometimes obscure the even more important search for conflict prevention and resolution. Whether any particular conflict is causally linked to climate change is of course relevant – with respect to the question of responsibility and the question of long-term conflict resolution. Yet more relevant may be the insight that climate change tends to add pressure to some drivers of conflict, and that therefore the risk of more - and more intensive – conflicts calls for preventive measures to strengthen those institutions that stand in between global environmental change and local, national and regional outcomes in terms of conflict. For this reason, these intermediate mechanisms and results play a prominent role in our analysis.
A note on case selection
The list of all conflicts on our map should not be taken as an exhaustive or representative one as our case selection is not aimed at representativeness in a statistical sense. For this reason, our visualization avoids "heatmapping" and can and should not be used for deducing claims such as "most climate-change related conflicts occur in region xyz". The selection of cases has been guided by various criteria, such as e.g. policy interest, representativeness for various types of conflict, and the (in-house) availability of regional expertise. Geographical concentrations are sometimes the consequence of deliberate choices with the aim of showing inter-linkages between different conflicts, but that was not possible everywhere due to resource constraints. For some regions, we already have specific plans for including more cases in the future.
For further details on the Factbook, its features, contents and their justification, please see here.