Current Climate Change Reports

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 222–232 | Cite as

An Anthropological Perspective on the Climate Change and Violence Relationship

  • L. Jen ShafferEmail author
Climate Change and Conflicts (E Gilmore, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Climate Change and Conflicts


Purpose of Review

This review explores the complex climate change-violence relationship through an anthropological lens, focusing on the interacting social and environmental conditions that constrain individual choices for violence. Evidence and methods used by anthropologists to identify violent events, as well as anthropological theories regarding why individuals choose violence, are discussed. A general social-environmental model is presented and explored through four case studies, two archaeological and two ethnographic.

Recent Findings

Recent research with historic and contemporary case studies suggests that resource uncertainty interacts with a complex array of pre-existing social and environmental conditions, including environmental degradation, poor governance, and social inequality, to promote violent responses both before and following climatic changes. Individuals may choose to avoid violence where supporting, cooperative mechanisms exist.


Given that individuals make choices to respond violently or not based on their perceptions of these complex, interacting social and environmental conditions, violence in response to global climate change is not inevitable.


Cooperation Governance Resource uncertainty Social-environmental system Social inequality Structural violence 



The author thanks Drs. Elisabeth Gilmore and Brian Sodden for their invitation to contribute to this special edition of Current Climate Change Reports.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

There is no conflict of interest.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

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