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About the Case Studies

A case study is a detailed description of each example of environmental conflict and cooperation that is shown on the Factbook Worldmap. Each case study contains information such as the conflict’s history, actors, driving mechanisms, as well as main resolution efforts.

factbook climate conflict cooperation environment south china sea



Conflict intensity is shown on a scale from 1 (low intensity) to 4 (high intensity). The value displayed is the higher of the two types of conflict measures that are used to evaluate a conflict’s intensity:

  • Human suffering: This measure summarises the humanitarian impacts of the conflict, particularly with reference to fatalities, violence, and mass displacement.
  • International/Geopolitical intensity: This measure summarises the information that makes a conflict salient from an international and geopolitical perspective, such as cross-border migration, involvement of more than one nuclear power, and the occurrence of interstate tensions or war.
factbook conflict environment climate

These measures should enable comparisons to be made across conflicts and case studies. However, they are by no means comprehensive, and should only be taken as a rough orientation of a conflict’s intensity.

Fragility risks

Fragility risks conceptually stem from the report ‘A New Climate for Peace’. These risks are sets of mechanisms of environmental, social and economic processes that, when interacted with climate change, lead to situations of fragility and conflicts in each respective case study. The seven “compound climate-fragility risks” are:

climate fragility risks g7

Conceptual model

The conceptual model visualises how environmental change (i.e. the driver) is connected to a conflict or other situation of fragility (i.e. the outcome) in each case study. It does so by specifying the main mechanisms and intermediate states that link them together.

factbook conflict climate environment fragility conceptual causal model
Example of a conceptual model, taken from the case study "Conflict and Armed Opposition Groups in the Lake Chad Basin."

In each conceptual model, environmental changes are shown in the second column, and may have direct social (yellow lines) and/or climatic causes (green lines), both of which are displayed in the first column. These changes may then have consequences for societies (third column) that translate into conflict and fragility risks (last column). Each step along the conceptual model is documented in more detail in the main text of the case study.

When interpreting the model as a whole, three caveats need to be considered: The model is a (i) partial account that features sometimes (ii) hypothetical or potential links in a (iii) parsimonious manner.

  1. Partial account: the conceptual model does not suggest that the environmental change(s) shown are the only driver(s) that are sufficient to induce a particular conflict. Rather, it provides an account of the environmental dimensions of the conflict within the broader societal context.
  2. Potential links: the links shown are potential in two ways: First, links can be hypothetical and theoretical in the sense that they refer to plausible explanations and possible future developments, rather than being an account of observed connections. Second, some links – in particular from climate change to extreme weather events – are inherently potential as the definite relationship between climate change and a specific extreme weather event is difficult to establish.
  3. Parsimonious explanation: When choosing which links to display for a specific conflict, there is often a trade-off between displaying the conflict in all its complexity versus keeping the visualisation clear and understandable. For that reason, we sometimes choose a more parsimonious representation of the case study, which means that the absence of a specific link does not suggest that the mechanism is not present at all.


The list of actors comprises those actors or stakeholders that are of particular importance for a specific case study. Each actor has the following attributes:

  • Participation: The actor participates in the conflict itself (i.e. conflict party) and/or helps in resolving the conflict (i.e. conflict resolution facilitator).
  • Functional group: The actor can be public (i.e. a government or governmental agency), commercial (i.e. a corporation), civil society (i.e. a non-governmental organisation or other organised representation of societal interests), and non-state violent actor (i.e. a group that challenges the state and/or current political elites through organised armed violence).
  • Geographical scale: The actor operates at one of the following geographical scales: internal-grassroots (actor works primarily in the field or in the conflict locality), internal-national (actor works primarily at the national level, for e.g. national political parties), internal-international (actor acts internationally but belongs to a conflict, for e.g. national governments involved in a transboundary dam conflict), or external (actor is not directly involved in the conflict but attempts to contribute to its resolution from the outside, for e.g. UN agencies and foreign governments supporting negotiations between conflict parties).

Resilience and Peace Building

This section describes the resolution strategies that have or could have been employed by local authorities and/or foreign policy makers to address the root causes of the conflict. These strategies range from institutional solutions (e.g. improving state capacity and legitimacy, and strengthening legislation and law enforcement), peacebuilding tools (e.g. dialogue, mediation and arbitration), and measures that build capacity and social resilience (e.g. improving infrastructure and services, and promoting alternative livelihoods).

factbook, resilience, conflict resolution, climate, environment, peace building
Example of a list of resolution strategies to build peace and resilience, taken from the case study "Water stress and political tensions in Iran."

For each case study, only the relevant resolution strategies are shown. Each strategy is accompanied by a short description explaining how the strategy relates to the case study and its conflict resolution. In addition, each strategy is given a score from 1 to 4 to indicate the level of applicability of each strategy to resolving the conflict:

  1. Primary conflict resolution strategy (4)
  2. The strategy is an important part of the conflict resolution process (3)
  3. The strategy is present, but only attempted weakly (2)
  4. Applicable, but not employed (1)