Growing interest in the possible connection between climate change and violence in sub-Saharan Africa has been evident in both the public policy and academic communities. The debate has been energetic, disciplinary preferences are evident and the arguments confused by scanty evidence and diverse methods. Kenya is a good site to test propositions about the prospects of violence. Using information from a representative national survey of experiences and attitudes as well violent events, temperature, precipitation, food vulnerability and vegetation health data, I examine the possibility that household income shocks or shortages of food will lead to increases in support for the use of violence. The population survey includes endorsement experiments to probe sensitive attitudes. There is no direct link between reported crop failure or food shortages and support for the use of violence. While local differences between pastoralist and agricultural communities, as well as ethnic groups, are evident in the data, the purported direct connection between the growing stresses on resources generated by climate change and the rise of violence is challenged by these results.
John O'Loughlin is College Professor of Distinction in Geography and Faculty Research Associate in the Institute of Behavioral Science at the University of Colorado, Boulder. His research interests are in the geographic analysis of conflict including the relationship between climate/environmental change and conflict in sub-Saharan Africa as well as in the political geography of the post-Soviet Union, including Russian and Ukrainian geopolitics, Eurasian de facto states and ethno-territorial nationalisms.