Recent research purports that climate change is creating conflict, and leads to unchecked migration. But three distinct flaws characterise such research efforts; they often ask the wrong questions, present poor evidence, and remove references to other, more likely factors that cause conflict. It often gets translated into a perception that poor people act violently for ‘natural’ reasons, or are spurred by physical hazards. We all know that high climate vulnerability and conflict co-occur in the same general regions, but we know far less about what does shape the power and competition dynamics at the local level. Basically, who are the winners and losers of environmental change?
The reality from local research is that far more cooperation is occurring at the local level to mitigate and adapt to environmental challenges; and that a tremendous amount of development money is being directed towards adaptation and risk management. This changes the local calculus for violence. As a result, conflict, when and where it does occur, is often between the ‘winners’ from climate change, development and transitions to democracy.