Neglecting the urban? Exploring rural-urban disparities in the climate change–conflict literature on Sub-Sahara Africa


African cities are facing challenges arising from climate change. Increased severity of rainfall threaten huge parts of urban settlers living in flood prone areas. Coincidently, projections of population trends suggest that urbanization rates will remain at high levels. The impacts such climate change conditions can have on local livelihoods already under socio-economic stress, may contribute to the onset of urban violence. In sharp contrast to these possible developments, contemporary scholarship on the relation between climate change and conflict has a strong rural focus.

A novel systematic literature review of academic articles looking at trends and patterns of the climate change-conflict nexus was conducted to explore whether there is an urban neglect in the literature. The results suggest that scholarly attention on the urban is very limited and focus rather on rural dynamics. A second main contribution of this paper is the introduction of a conceptual framework on the climate change-conflict nexus in urban areas. It combines existing streams of literature into a single model to further theorize and understand dynamics of the climate change-urban violence linkages. Finally, the paper argues for more research on multi-causal pathways leading from adverse climate conditions to urban political violence.