Climate change, according to a study, is helping to make the world less peaceful by causing or worsening conflicts by affecting livelihoods, security and resources.

Almost a billion people worldwide live in areas of high or very high threat from the climate, and 400 million of them are in countries with already low levels of peacefulness, according to the Global Peace Index (GPI).

The relationship between climate change and conflict is illustrated by eight of the 25 least peaceful countries, where at least 10% of the population live in areas where there is a high level of climate risk.

More than 100 million people in these countries – South Sudan, Iraq, Libya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, North Korea, Nigeria and Mexico – are at risk.

More people – 122 million – are considered vulnerable in sub-Saharan Africa. The region is least able to deal with climate threats that could exacerbate climate-related violent conflicts.

A photo taken on May 10, 2019, shows a building destroyed by Khan Sheikhun City firing reported by government forces in the southern countryside of the rebel-held province of Idlib
Image:
Khan Sheikhun, in the rebel-held province of Idlib in Syria, reports of government bombardment

More peaceful countries are better able to cope with climate-related shocks and tend to have a higher environmental performance than less peaceful countries, for which climate shocks are more difficult to tackle, the report says.

"The impact of fluctuating climatic conditions on social stability and their potential to lead to violent conflicts is becoming increasingly important," the report said.

"Research has shown that changes in the natural environment pollute human society."

While the report acknowledges that "long-term" evidence for the link between climate change and peace is "scarce," it notes that "climate plays a role in triggering or exacerbating conflicts through its impact on security and resources of livelihood has availability. "

A flooded church near Manila in the Philippines, where coastal areas are affected by rising sea levels
Image:
A flooded church near Manila in the Philippines, where coastal areas are affected by rising sea levels

The annual report prepared by the Institute for Economy and Peace (IEP) in its 13th edition assigns 163 independent states and territories their degree of peacefulness.

This year, it classified more than a quarter (45) of the countries as low or very low.

Scientists will have more opportunity in the future to study the relationship between climate change and conflict.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that the Earth's surface temperature could increase by another 1.5 degrees Celsius between 2030 and 2052.

Over the decade in which the report was published, the average level of global peacefulness has fallen by nearly 4%, with the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region being the least peaceful for the fifth consecutive year.

:: The most peaceful countries

1. Iceland

2. New Zealand

3. Austria

4. Portugal

5. Denmark

:: least peaceful countries

1. Afghanistan

2. Syria

3. South Sudan

4. Yemen

5. Iraq