UNT Professors Use DOD Grant for Climate, African Instability Study
The research of Cullen Hendrix, Ph.D., and Idean Salehyan, Ph.D., both assistant professors of political science at the University of North Texas, is being funded with a $50,000 grant from Department of Defense.
The grant is part of a larger award that went to the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas at Austin. The center's program on Climate Change and African Political Stability (CCAPS) will generate basic research and provide practical guidance to high-level policymakers in the U.S. government on the link between climate change vulnerability and political risk in Africa.
Hendrix, who studies political economy, civil conflict, and the environment in developing nations, and Salehyan, author of the book Rebels Without Borders: Transnational Insurgencies in World Politics, were recruited for CCAPS by the Strauss Center. The team of researchers also includes faculty members from Trinity University in Dublin, Ireland, and the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va.
Hendrix said he and Salehyan are among a small number of scholars who have conducted quantitative research on climate change ─ focusing on factors such as rainfall, average temperatures and incidences of droughts ─ and conflict in African nations.
The professors and three political science graduate students are gathering information on incidents of political instability that occurred from 1990 through 2008 in all 53 African nations, using newspaper archives and other documents.
"The incidents range from a protest by 100 farmers who are fighting with the government over land rights to full-blown civil wars," Salehyan said. "Competition over resources such as land and water, migration patterns and declining economic productivity may contribute to instability."
Hendrix said that while the U.S. government and private insurance markets provide financial assistance to crop growers and farmers in this country who are affected by weather-related crop failures ─ such as the Arctic freeze that impacted Florida's orange crop this past winter ─ many African governments are poorly funded and are limited in their ability to offer assistance.
"The Florida farmers who have had a bad year aren't going to be destitute, but some African farmers produce everything they and their families eat. A drought becomes a life-or-death issue. Also, the scarcity of resources has widespread global effects, including higher food prices," he said.
Over the next four years, the professors will determine if climate change has led to more political instability in the African nations.