Climate change exacerbates both conflict and poverty: IMF

New IMF study highlights climate shocks hitting war-torn countries hardest, leading to a potential increase in conflict-related fatalities

Representative image of a person standing on cracked dry soil (photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Representative image of a person standing on cracked dry soil (photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)


Fragile countries, and those impacted most by conflict, are already being unevenly hit by the effects of climate change and are less able than other countries to mitigate those impacts, according to a report published by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on 30 August.

Fragile and conflict-affected states, referred to by the report as FCS, are those countries whose location and dependence on agriculture make them most vulnerable to extreme weather.

They are also some of the most prone to conflict, which in turn hinders their ability to recover from disruptive weather events that, according to the IMF, have happened on average once every four years in these countries since 1980.

This situation is only expected to get worse and temperatures continue to rise. By 2040, the FCS will see around two months of temperatures over 35 degrees Celsius, compared to just 15 days of high temperatures expected for other countries.

"While climate shocks may not trigger the onset of new conflict," the report said, pointing to the complex factors that underly it, they do "exacerbate conflict intensity where it already exists".

The IMF predicts that if the world continues on its current high-emissions trajectory, then conflict deaths in the FCS could increase by between 8.5 per cent and 14 per cent by 2060.

As FCS also tend to be heavily reliant on rain-fed agriculture — a sector that is massively vulnerable to changes in weather patterns — increasing drought is expected to lower food production, increase inflation and push an extra 50 million people into hunger by 2060.

Around one in five countries is classified as fragile and conflict-affected, encompassing a population of almost 1 billion people.

The majority of these states are in Africa and are some of the countries least responsible for man-made climate change, with their carbon emissions paling in comparison to those of European and North American countries, as well as those of more recent large-scale emitters such as China and India.

The IMF calls for these vulnerable states to introduce policies for climate adaptation, including 'climate-smart agriculture', scaling up 'social spending' and 'climate-resilient infrastructure', and 'strengthening social safety nets'.

But it also calls on the international community to step up its own efforts to provide support — 'or else spillover effects associated with fragility and conflict could become even more disruptive, including more forced displacement and migration to other countries'.

African countries have long been calling on richer countries to help pay for climate adaptation and energy transition.

Kenya is hosting the African Climate Summit next week, where leaders will attempt to reach a united negotiating position ahead of November's COP28 summit in the United Arab Emirates.

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