Climate Change, Trade Liberalization, and Civil Strife

This paper investigates the relationship between civil strife and extreme climatic events through their impact on local food prices and availability while exploring the role of trade liberalization in agricultural products in mitigating social unrest in developing countries. Using the collective action problem, I investigate the impact of food accessibility and trade barriers on people’s resentment level towards their government. From the theoretical model, I derive two hypotheses. First, a significant decrease in precipitation rates will provoke demonstrations. Second, a decrease in tariff rates imposed on agricultural products will decrease the number of consumers’ demonstrations. A Poisson model is used to test these hypotheses in which the dependent variable is either the number of peaceful or violent demonstrations per month. The main finding of the paper is that there is a strong relationship between droughts and civil strife, and this relationship depends on the length and severity of the drought. A severe short-term drought is found to increase peaceful protests whereas a moderate medium-term drought increases both peaceful and violent demonstrations. On the other hand, a long-term drought increases riots; the magnitude of the impact is increasing in the severity of the drought. Additionally, an increase in the ad valorem tariff imposed on a heavily imported agricultural product is found to increase the number of monthly riots when the country is experiencing a drought. (JEL Codes: F13, Q25, Q34)

Publication type: 
Working paper
Date published: 
Friday, July 19, 2019