Since publication of the last assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007, the debate on possible security risks as a result of climate change has increased. Research has produced new findings on this, but remains controversial regarding the question whether a global increase in temperature can be proven to result in more violent conflicts. Although historical long-term studies tend to find a relationship between climate change and armed conflicts, there are contradictory findings in this respect for recent times.
The team of authors, among them Prof. Jürgen Scheffran, head of the research group "Climate Change and Security", and Prof. Michael Brzoska of the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy, demonstrates for the special issue of Science covering the topic "human conflicts" that the climate system is related in a complex way to societal stability and conflicts. In the most impoverished regions of the globe, climatic changes add to humanitarian crises, thereby creating a premise for violence. What matters is how people react to threats to their life situation by water scarcity, famines and weather extremes: Although this sometimes results in violent conflicts, there are some examples where people are overcoming the challenge in a cooperative manner.
If the extent of climate change exceeds the adaptive capacity of societies, then there is an increased risk of reaching so-called "tipping points" in societal stability. Political measures may contribute to avoiding the security risks without aggravating the conflict situation by massive interventions, such as the use of bioenergy, nuclear energy, geo-engineering or military interventions.