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The missing link: how does the climate affect human conflicts and cooperation through water?

During recent years, our understanding of how climate affects society has advanced greatly. Despite advances in finding appropriate ways to study the climate - conflict link, research has so far overlooked a key pathway for societal effects of climate: water on land. Knowledge about how changes in water flows affect conflicts is largely lacking. Surface waters directly influence human society in many ways, including resource availability, energy production, and infrastructure risk. With increasing changes both from human impacts and climate change, water scarcity is increasing and sustainable water planning is paramount to limit negative health and societal impacts.

The goal of this project is to increase understanding of how people and the climate affect water flows and how, in turn, these changes affect cooperation and conflicts over water. This project will pioneer a new research approach to estimate the societal effects of climate through water, eventually enabling a better-informed foundation for policy decisions on adaptation to climate change. The project will increase understanding of how water-related conflicts and hydrological changes are linked through improved knowledge connecting 1) historical impacts on hydrological variables from human activities, 2) previous water-related conflicts and cooperation events, 3) identified knowledge gaps concerning climate and conflict, 4) socio-economic aspects relevant for conflict and cooperation pathways.

Funding and participation

This project is funded by FORMAS and is a collaboration between Stockholm University (SU), KTH, University of New Hampshire (UNH), and Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU).

Belongs to: WaterCentre@KTH
Last changed: Nov 02, 2022