Exploring complex pathways in the climate change, vulnerability and conflict nexus in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala

University essay from Lunds universitet/Avdelningen för Riskhantering och Samhällssäkerhet

Abstract: The climate change and conflict nexus has been the focus of much debate and speculation in academic circles as well as public discourse. Much of the existing research has been undertaken by studies using quantitative methods, which intend to prove or disprove the existence of a causal relationship. However, this approach does little to help inform policy and practice, where a deeper understanding of the mediating factors in the relationship and their interplay is needed. This thesis investigates the climate change – violent conflict nexus within the context of Alta Verapaz, a department in the central highlands of Guatemala. The aim was to conduct an in-depth analysis of the pathways between climate change and violent conflicts in a fragile context by focusing on vulnerability, to identify opportunities to build local resilience to these risks. A mixed methods approach was taken, combining quantitative survey questionnaires and a qualitative dataset of interviews with government officials, NGOs and key informants, as well as grey literature gathered during the fieldtrip. Results indicate that although climate change is having a noted impact on temperature and rainfall in the department and thus on people’s livelihoods, inadequate adaptation measures have led to increased vulnerability levels. The political economy in the area has given rise to situations of conflict, rather than stress related to climate change. Conflict drivers include ethnic-based governance, large-scale land acquisition (LSLA) and the presence of extractive industries and hydro-power plants. Climate change acts as an additional stressor in these political and social conflicts by increasing vulnerability.

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