The empirical knowledge base on the connections between extreme events of many types, including climate events, and political instability or violence also suggests some hypotheses that are worthy of examination in future research. For example, the available evidence is consistent with the idea that climate events affecting places of national security interest to the United States are likely to create the potential for significant violence, conflict, or breakdown dependent upon seven factors:

  1. the nature, breadth, or concentration and depth of pre-existing social and political grievances and stresses;
  2. the nature, breadth, or concentration and depth of the immediate impacts of the climate event;
  3. the socioeconomic, geographic, racial, ethnic, and religious profiles of the most exposed groups or subpopulations as well as their susceptibilities and coping capacities;
  4. the ability and willingness of the incumbent government and its internal and external supporters to devise, publicize, and implement effective, transparent, and equitable short-term emergency response and then longer-term recovery plans;
  5. the extent to which emergent or established anti-government or anti-regime movements or groups are able to take strategic or tactical advantage of grievances or problems related to responses to the event;
  6. the type, breadth, and depth of legitimacy and support for authorities, the government, the regime, and the nation-state; and
  7. the coercive and repressive capacities of the government and its willingness and ability to engage in and carry out repression.

We reiterate that the available evidence indicates that the relationships are complex and uncertain between the kinds of climate events that can be expected to occur with greater frequency in the coming decade and the kinds of social or political outcomes that can become U.S. national security concerns. The picture is blurry in part because both the climatic and the political events of concern have been infrequent until now, making analysis of their relationships difficult. Available evidence on several of these connections, however, points to the same general finding we reported in Chapter 4 regarding the causes of social and political stresses, namely, that the effects of climatic events on outcomes of security significance are contingent on a variety of specific social, political, economic, and environmental conditions in affected places. Thus, even with a more extensive body of climate experience to draw upon, it is unlikely that simple, straightforward conclusions will be found that reliably link a climate event of a particular type with a particular kind of effect on conflict or on key aspects of social well-being.

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