An extreme climatic event and systemic vulnerabilities in the face of conflict: insights from the Taliban insurgency in Swat, Pakistan

Muhammad Rafay Muzamil, Petra Tschakert, Bryan Boruff, Babar Shahbaz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The association between climate change and conflict is a contentious topic which reflects a small but growing body of evidence. While scholars report climate change as a driver of armed conflict with marked inconsistencies, the ways conflict and terrorism exacerbate the impacts of climate change and stand as a barrier to reduce exposure to and risks associated with future stressors have received little attention. Here, we aim to understand how the Taliban-led conflict affected the capacities of people living in conflict zones to cope with one extreme climatic event, namely the devastating flood of 2010. Using key informant interviews, focus group discussions and household surveys, we develop an understanding of how the interlinkages between economics, culture, and politics, alongside deteriorating natural resources, accentuated land ownership disputes that led to the Taliban insurgency in Swat, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) Province, Pakistan. Our findings reveal how the insurgency magnified the impacts of the 2010 flood and eroded rural livelihoods (e.g. farming and tourism) in the region. We demonstrate how existing and reproduced vulnerabilities alongside key stressors (i.e. armed conflict, the flood of 2010 and deforestation) became barriers to risk reduction. The study illustrates how these vulnerabilities, especially ownership disputes, and barriers to risk reduction can magnify the current and future risk environment. This case study highlights armed conflict as a contributing factor in the intensification of climate change impacts and associated extreme events.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3
JournalRegional Environmental Change
Volume21
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

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