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Rising Storms: Climate Change Exacerbating Conflict And Hunger

A World Vision report released today ahead of COP28 reveals those living on the frontlines of climate change believe it exacerbates conflict, hunger, and displacement.

A survey of nearly 3,000 people in nine low- and middle-income countries1 , including Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, El Salvador, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, finds that 86% people are already experiencing a vast array of climate hazards.

Worryingly, nearly two-thirds of people in these communities believe climate change is worsening conflict in their communities.

World Vision New Zealand National Director, Grant Bayldon, says the research highlights the cost of decades of inaction on climate change.

“It is urgent that leaders push for real action at this month’s COP meeting. This year is on track to be the warmest year on record and climate change is visibly worsening violent conflict and hunger around the world. We’re seeing more people than ever before being forced move to new areas in search of arable and grazing land, food, and safety.”

The Rising Storms: Climate impacts on conflict, community tensions and hunger report found that 80% of those surveyed felt that climate change had worsened their economic situation, and almost 60% completely agreed that climate was increasing the risk of hunger.

Bayldon says the effects of climate change can put people, especially farmers and herders, in vulnerable positions that aggravate social tensions as people try to find new ways to make ends meet.

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“The people experiencing the impact of climate change on a daily basis are like the canary in the coal mine. They are warning us that the rapidly changing climate leads to conflict, to tensions, and ultimately to displacement from home and hunger. It’s a stark warning and one that we ignore at our peril,” he says.

Respondents said that climate change was leading to displacement either to or from their communities, and more than a third said they had experienced some form of conflict in the past year. Many of those conflicts were due to either land or water.

World Vision’s Global Hunger Response Director, Mary Njeri, says as people grapple with the

effects of climate change, people often resort to negative coping mechanisms that only further degrade the environment.

“Almost a third of people said climate change affects had led to an increase in deforestation in their communities, as decreasing crop yields spurred people to search for more land to grow food, or turn to mining to support their families,” she says.

“We urgently need wealthier countries to fulfil their promises to fund initiatives to help vulnerable communities adapt to climate change in ways that won’t further degrade the environment or aggravate conflicts.”

Bayldon says every country, including New Zealand, has a responsibility to ensure they are doing their part.

“We all need to limit emissions and help keep temperatures below 1.5C if possible and that’s the challenge for the incoming New Zealand Government – to take action to ensure we’re on track to do this.

“The world is already projected to hit a temperature rise of over 1.1C, but we owe it to our children to protect the planet. If we do not, the world won’t just be warmer, but bloodier and hungrier too,” he says.

Bayldon hopes world leaders, including New Zealand, at this year’s COP28 will listen to the voices of young people and those on the frontlines of the climate crisis and take firm action to make a tangible reduction in carbon emissions for the sake of people and communities on the frontline of climate change.


Note to Editors:

About the report

The research used field data from a survey of 2,716 people in nine countries where World Vision works to show that climate-linked conflict, displacement, and food insecurity are already happening, and in a wider range of contexts than commonly thought.

Offices were selected for inclusion based on capacity, relevant exposure to climate, conflict, and hunger, and geographic spread. The countries involved were Centre Est in Burkina Faso, Haut Katanga and Lualaba in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),2 Anbar in Iraq, Bougainville in Papua New Guinea (PNG), and Puttalam in Sri Lanka.

Findings from a range of urban, rural, and indigenous communities in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua are grouped as the Dry Corridor. Initial scoping and development of the research methodology took place in June and July 2023, ahead of field data collection in August and September 2023. 

Key statistics:

86% respondents thought climate change poses a serious issue for their communities and 83% thought climate change poses a serious risk to them and their families.

The most common concerns were around drought (57%), rainfall pattern changes (48%) and heatwaves 42%.

60% thought climate change was worsening conflict in their communities now.

When asked the cause of environment and climate-related conflict in their community, 38% said it was due to water shortages. Corruption (20%) and displacement (17%) were the next most common answers.

Respondents agreed almost universally (99%) that climate change leads to displacement either from or to their community.

82% of respondents agreed3 with the statement ‘climate change worsens my economic situation’.

When asked how they were negatively affected by climate change, 72% respondents mentioned livelihood related impacts including ‘loss of livelihoods’, ‘reduced pastureland’, ‘crop failure’ and ‘difficulty accessing water/food’.

Over half (51%) of survey respondents reported that reduced access to food and water was a key impact of climate hazards, while 57% completely agreed that climate change increased the risk of hunger/food insecurity.

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