Blog Archives

Article acceptance and navigating new publishing territory

I had an article accepted last week with Current Climate Change Reports.  It is part of a special social science issue on the relationship between climate change and conflict.  The journal is fairly new and has mainly published literature reviews of biophysical science research related to climate change.   I had fun researching and writing up this piece.  Some of the work I read was a little outside my wheelhouse, but in the end I think that it helped.  It meant I couldn’t get all jargony and convoluted in explaining the sorts of evidence and approaches anthropologists use to identify acts of violence, and sort out how they could be connected to larger environmental changes like shifts in climate.

I was tasked with reviewing the anthropological literature to see what could be said regarding the relationship between climate change and violence.  My editor asked that I define violence as physical and fatal.  I took that to mean one-on-one interpersonal violence, small scale conflict, and war.  That was helpful given that violence doesn’t always end in death, and also includes psychological violence, sexual violence, structural violence, and neglect.


Exploring Evidence for the Climate Change & Conflict Connection. (Climate Change and Migration Coalition)

Given my previous work on climate adaptation and vulnerability in social-environmental systems, I used this framework to think about why people would choose violence and others not.  Many arguments take on an environmentally deterministic tinge when assessing the correlations between climate change and violence, but there is no direct linear relationship.  Governance, social inequality, and environmental degradation can all influence choices people make in the wake of a climate event or during a longer-term change.  Additionally, both cooperation and structural violence emerged as concepts I could not ignore given their influence on human agency.

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.
Summary: 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.

Shaffer, LJ (2017). An anthropological perspective on climate change and conflict relationship. Current Climate Change Reports. PRE-PRINT

The final publication is available at Springer via

The full, published article is now available online at:

*This last bit of legalese allows researchers to post up their work for access by others while recognizing the rights of the publisher to the final work.  My article is still working its way through the system to get it into form for online publication.  I’ve uploaded the pre-print version for self-archiving here, and will update the final link once it is made available online.