Scholars of environmental politics and policy experts have long debated whether climate change can be linked to violent conflict. I present a new framework called human–environmental–climate security (HECS), which integrates critiques of traditional security frameworks while offering a systematized method of process tracing. Using existing concepts of vulnerability and resilience, I illustrate the empirical utility of centering the human subject and local conceptions of security when analyzing the role of climate in armed conflict. I develop this framework using the cases of Syria, Sudan, and Morocco. I argue that the ecological drivers of conflicts in Sudan and Syria are best understood as a result of policy decisions that reflected the ideology and preferences of ruling elites rather than direct functions of climate change. Conversely, I present the case of Morocco as a counterfactual in which sound government policy attenuated environmental drivers of conflict. In doing so, this approach considers the impacts of international and domestic structures of inequality on people’s climate vulnerability and resilience.

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Author notes


I sincerely thank my graduate student and research assistant Jérémie Langlois for his outstanding inputs and contributions throughout all stages of revisions.