A recurrent critique of the proposition of a causal relation between environmental change and social conflict is that it fails to account for the complexities and dynamics of processes of social-ecological change. In this article, we open the black box of contextual factors that influence the causal pathway from environmental change to social conflict. Firstly, we argue for the consideration of three social factors that influence that pathway: (a) institutions, (b) power, and (c) knowledge. Taking a deductive approach, we ascertain their causal importance in the case of the “mackerel dispute,” an interstate conflict that unfolded after the abrupt and rapid change in distribution of the northeast Atlantic mackerel stock after 2007. We analyze the historical development of the mackerel dispute through process tracing and demonstrate the importance and causal role of the three factors. Secondly, based on our assessment, we argue to increase the diversity of the scope conditions relevant for the environmental change-social conflict nexus. We propose to consider a wider variety of conflicts as outcome of environmental change, high-income regions as an arena for those conflicts, and a wider variety of environmental change, such as alterations in abundance in the context of climate change. Lastly, we discuss how future research on this topic can handle the wider scope conditions and greater case variability.
Research news | 2017-06-22
Fisheries in least developed countries among world’s most vulnerable to climate change
Research news | 2017-06-21
Placed-based sustainability efforts often fail to recognise the risk of piling up the environmental pressure elsewhere
Research news | 2017-06-15
How an ongoing project aims to develop positive visions of the Anthropocene for southern Africa and beyond
General news | 2017-06-13
Centre director selected from a global short-list of remarkable candidates demonstrating "extraordinary leadership in mid-career"
Research news | 2017-06-12
New study explores how information and collaboration influence governance networks, and highlights trade-offs and benefits of using adaptive policies
Educational news | 2017-06-12
We seek change makers for LEAP - a new leadership programme on human and planetary opportunities