From Climate Change to Conflict

Environmental Security Challenges in North-Western Kenya


  • Lisa Nowag Otto-von-Guericke-University Magdeburg



Cilmate Change, Climate-Conflict Nexus, East Africa, Environment, North-Western Kenya, Pastoral Conflicts, Raiding, Resource Scarcity, Security


In recent years, debate and research on the effects of climate change have intensified. By contributing to natural disasters, sea-level rise and resource scarcity, changes in climate are anticipated to become a significant threat to environmental security. However, existing literature and case studies on the effects of climate change in relation to violence find diverging results. This research note therefore asks if and to what extent climate change can be regarded as a significant contributor to violent conflicts. By investigating climate-related effects on pastoral raiding in North-Western Kenya, the overall relationship between climate change and conflict is analysed on the basis of a practical case study. This analysis supports that climate change is a decisive factor in increasing violence. By multiplying previously existing socio-political tensions and triggering the outbreak of latent conflict, climate change can have impacts on both environmental and civil security. However, its effects are often not directly visible.

Author Biography

Lisa Nowag, Otto-von-Guericke-University Magdeburg

Lisa Nowag, 25, from Neuss (Germany), is a Master’s student in “Peace and Conflict Studies” at Otto-von-Guericke-University Magdeburg. In 2017, she obtained her Bachelor’s degree in “Cultural Anthropology” at Johannes-Gutenberg-University Mainz. Her research interests include sustainable development, human rights, civil society action, conflict resolution and environmental security. The regional focus of her studies lies on Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.


Anderson, Craig A. 2001. “Heat and Violence.” Current Directions in Psychological Science 10, no. 1: 33–38.

Bächler, Günther. 1998. “Why Environmental Transformation Causes Violence: A
Synthesis.” Environmental Change and Security Project Report 4, no. 1: 24–44.

Barnett, Jon, and W. Neil Adger. 2007. “Climate Change, Human Security and Violent Conflict.” Political Geography 26, no. 6: 639–655.

Bennett, Andrew. 2008. “Case Study Methods: Design, Use, and Comparative Advantages.” In Models, Numbers, and Cases: Methods for Studying International Relations, edited by Detlef F. Sprinz and Yael Wolinsky-Nahmias, 19–55. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Burke, Marshall B., Edward Miguel, Shanker Satyanath, John A. Dykema, and David B. Lobell. 2009. “Warming Increases the Risk of Civil War in Africa.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106, no. 49: 20670–20674.

Campbell, Ivan, Alec Crawford, Sarah Dalrymple, and Rob Craig. 2009. Climate Change and Con¬flict. Lessons from Community Conservancies in Northern Kenya. Winnipeg: International Institute for Sustainable Development.

Eriksen, Siri, and Jeremy Lind. 2009. “Adaptation as a Political Process: Adjusting to Drought and Conflict in Kenya’s Drylands.” Environmental Management 43, no. 5 (May): 817–835.

Fjelde, Hanne, and Nina von Uexkull. 2012. “Climate Triggers: Rainfall Anomalies,
Vulnerability and Communal Conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa.” Political Geography 31, no. 7: 444–453.

Gartzke, Erik. 2012. “Could Climate Change Precipitate Peace?” Journal of Peace Research 49, no. 1: 177–192.

Gleditsch, Nils Petter. 2007. “Environmental Change, Security, and Conflict.” In Leashing the Dogs of War. Conflict Management in a Divided World, edited by Chester A. Crocker, Fen Osler Hampson, and Pamela Aall, 177–195. Washington: United States Institute of Peace Press.

Gleditsch, Nils Petter. 2012. “Whither the Weather? Climate Change and Conflict.” Journal of Peace Research 49, no. 1: 3–9.

GoK, Government of Kenya. 2010. National Climate Change Response Strategy.
Nairobi: Ministry of Environment and Forestry. Accessed March 1, 2019.

GoK, Government of Kenya. 2013. National Climate Change Action Plan (Kenya): 2013–2017. Nairobi: Ministry of Environment and Forestry. Accessed March 1, 2019.

GoK, Government of Kenya. 2018. National Climate Change Action Plan (Kenya): 2018–2022. Nairobi: Ministry of Environment and Forestry. Accessed March 1, 2019.

Homer-Dixon, Thomas F. 1994 “Environmental Scarcities and Violent Conflict: Evidence from Cases.” International Security 19, no. 1: 5-40.

Homer-Dixon, Thomas. 2007. “Terror in the Weather Forecast.” The New York Times, April 24, 2017.

Lewandowsky, Stephan, Naomi Oreskes, James S. Risbey, Ben R. Newell, and Michael Smithson. 2015. “Seepage: Climate change denial and its effect on the scientific community.” Global Environmental Change 33: 1–13.

McSweeney, Carol, Mark New, and Gil Lizcano. 2008. “Country Profiles: Kenya.” UNDP Climate Change Country Profiles. Accessed February 27, 2019.

Njiru, Beth Njeri. 2012. “Climate Change, Resource Competition, and Conflict amongst Pastoral Communities in Kenya.” In Climate Change, Human Security and Violent Conflict. Challenges for Societal Stability, edited by Jürgen Scheffran, Michael Brzoska, Hans Günter Brauch, Peter Michael Link, and Janpeter Schilling, 513–527. Berlin/Heidelberg, Germany: Springer-Verlag.

Omolo, Nancy A. 2010. “Gender and Climate Change-Induced Conflict in Pastoral
Communities: Case Study of Turkana in North-Western Kenya.” African Journal on Conflict Resolution 10, no. 2: 81–102.

Raleigh, Clionadh, and Henrik Urdal. 2007. “Climate Change, Environmental Degradation and Armed Conflict.” Political Geography 26, no. 6 (August): 674–694.

Salehyan, Idean. 2008. “From Climate Change to Conflict? No Consensus Yet.” Journal of Peace Research 45, no. 3: 315–326.

Schilling, Janpeter, Moses Hillary Akuno, Jürgen Scheffran, and Thomas Weinzieri. 2014. “On Raids and Relations: Climate Change, Pastoral Conflict and Adaptation in North-Western Kenya.” In Conflict-Sensitive Adaptation to Climate Change in Africa, edited by Salome Bronkhorst and Urmilla Bob, 241–265. Berlin: Berliner Wissenschaftsverlag.

Theisen, Ole Magnus. 2012. “Climate Clashes? Weather Variability, Land Pressure, and Organized Violence in Kenya, 1989–2004.” Journal of Peace Research 49, no. 1: 81–96.

Theisen, Ole Magnus, Nils Petter Gleditsch, and Halvard Buhaug. 2013. “Is Climate Change a Driver of Armed Conflict?” Climatic Change 117, no. 3: 613–625.

van Baalen, Sebastian, and Malin Mobjörk. 2016. A Coming Anarchy? Pathways from
Climate Change to Violent Conflict in East Africa. Stockholm: Stockholm University, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute & The Swedish Institute of International Affairs.




How to Cite

Nowag, L. (2020). From Climate Change to Conflict: Environmental Security Challenges in North-Western Kenya. Politikon: The IAPSS Journal of Political Science, 47, 60–76.



Research notes