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Climate Change Is a Conflict Multiplier

Climate change is contributing to geopolitical conflicts around the world because of droughts with subsequent crop failures and extreme weather leading to hurricanes and flooding with displacement of millions of people. This increases the risk of war and the use of nuclear weapons. Learn more >>

Analysis of the links between possible climatic changes and international security and conflict has been developing for more than two decades, including work on the connections between conflict and stresses from population growth, water scarcity, and agricultural production. Learn more >>


Syrian Civil War

Researchers have said that an extreme drought in Syria between 2006 and 2009 was most likely due to climate change. The drought caused massive crop failures leading to the migration of 1.5 million people from rural to urban areas. The resultant social stresses were a factor in the violent uprising that began there in 2011 and eventually led to military intervention by the nuclear states of US and Russia. (Source)


“The Baglihar Hydroelectric Power Project spans the Chenab River in Jammu and Kashmir, India. Under the Indus Water Treaty, the waters of the Chenab are allocated to Pakistan.”  (Source)   Credit: ICIMOD Kathmandu

“The Baglihar Hydroelectric Power Project spans the Chenab River in Jammu and Kashmir, India. Under the Indus Water Treaty, the waters of the Chenab are allocated to Pakistan.” (Source)

Credit: ICIMOD Kathmandu

Heightened Tensions Between India and Pakistan

A changing climate and growing population have put more pressure on the demand for water in the nuclear states of India and Pakistan. Both want control of Kashmir, because of access to rivers which flow from India to Pakistan. (Source)

India has sped up plans to build dams in Kashmir which would affect Pakistan’s water supply. India has also threatened to withdraw from the Indus Water Treaty, which Pakistan would consider an act of war. (Source)


Limited Nuclear War Would Lead to Climate Disruption

New computer models have demonstrated the effects of nuclear war on world climate. A “limited” or regional nuclear war, involving 100 of India and Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, bombs, about 0.03 percent of the global nuclear arsenal, would kill 20 million people in the first week. Firestorms would erupt, releasing massive amounts of smoke into the upper atmosphere, cutting off the sun, cooling the earth and reducing precipitation for 10 or more years. There would be massive ozone depletion, allowing more ultraviolet radiation to reach earth’s surface. (Source)

This climate disruption would cause a marked decline in corn, wheat, rice and soybean production, leading to the starvation of up to 2 billion people. (Source)


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Full Scale Nuclear War Would Lead to Ice Age Temperatures

 A “full scale” nuclear war involving just one-third of all U.S. and Russian nuclear warheads (the “launch ready” weapons) would result in billions of human casualties. But the most devastating and long- term effects would be climate disruption:

  • The drop in temperatures around the world would be similar to those we experienced during the last major ice age.

  • Agriculture would collapse.  

  • The stratospheric ozone layer would be depleted. (Source)

  • Not just humans, but radio-sensitive organisms including other mammals as well as birds and higher plants such as pine and spruce trees would be at risk.

  • The world would be contaminated with radioactive isotopes, including plutonium 239 which has a half-life of 24,400 years. (Source)