Drought and civil war in Sub-Saharan Africa

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14 January 2014

We show that civil war is strongly related to drought in sub-Saharan Africa. We consider the effect of variations in the Palmer Drought Severity Index (Palmer 1965) – a cumulative index that combines precipitation, temperature and the local characteristics of the soil – on the risk of civil war. While the recent, contentious debate on the link between climate and civil war has mainly focused on precipitation and temperature, without obtaining converging results, the Palmer index describes social exposure to water stress in a more effcient way. We show that it is a key factor of civil war in sub-Saharan Africa and that this result is robust to various specifications and passes a series of sensitivity tests. Also, our results indicate that agriculture, ethnic diversity and institutional quality are important factors to link climate and civil war.