Climate Change and Conflicts in South Sudan

South Sudan has experienced decades of protracted conflicts, some of which might have been caused in part or exacerbated by climate change and variability. Climate change causes scarcity of resources and forces communities to raid their neighbors or migrate to a new area to look for opportunities, which brings new arrivals into competition with the landowners, leading to conflicts. Local level climate induced stresses feed into national level political instability, which causes or exacerbates violent conflicts. While Funk et al., (2011) have documented climatic changes in South Sudan, little is known about the extent to which such contribute to conflicts. This study investigates the extent of climate change, variability and the incidents of climate disaster events and links with conflicts in South Sudan. Using meteorological data, records of conflicts, floods and droughts, we find (1) decrease in rainfalls and increase in temperature in South Sudan since 1970s, (2) increase in flood and drought disasters in South Sudan since 1900, (3) insignificant link between climate change and conflicts, and (4) conflicts occur after floods or droughts, implying that climate change has been contributing to conflicts in South Sudan. We recommend to the government and partners to (1) invest in climate information services, (2) promote a better understanding of rain-fed agriculture/pastoralism/conflict nexus, as well as focus on conflict resolution mechanisms, (3) cultivate communal dialogue around natural resource management at local levels, (4) integrate climate change adaptation and adaptation measures into peace processes, (5) build communal assets (e.g., dykes and irrigation systems), and (6) invest in conflict data to better understand its key drivers.