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King Center initiative: Climate Change and Political Mobilization in the Global South

New research will equip policy makers and scholars with data on how climate change is shaping politics in the Global South.

The King Center on Global Development’s initiative on Climate Change and Political Mobilization in the Global South investigates how climate change is shaping politics in the Global South. Led by Principal Investigators Amanda Kennard, Department of Political Science, and Brandon de la Cuesta, Postdoctoral Fellow, the initiative aims to help scientists and politicians understand how climate change is affecting public perception of governments and political participation in the developing world.

Climate variations are already having profound impacts on human health, economic growth, migration, and armed conflict, all of which increase political uncertainty. How these dynamics play out in the developing world—regions where climate impacts are likely to be the most severe and where carbon emissions are growing most quickly—has received limited scientific attention. “No one has really systematically looked at what climate change is doing to the political demands that citizens are making in the developing world,” says de la Cuesta. “Our goal is to take a first cut at building a global database [that documents] whether or not climate change is increasing political instability in developing countries.” 

The team is assembling comprehensive data on climate impacts, public opinion, and political behavior to assess the impact of climate pressures on people’s perceptions of the economy, political leaders and democratic institutions. “We're marrying old-school political economy with newer machine learning tools to harmonize millions of survey responses from developing countries,” explains de la Cuesta. “We'll be able to get a picture of the entire developing world over the last 20 years.” This ‘big picture’ will help researchers and politicians understand if and how voting behavior, political protests and political violence are linked to climate change. It will also illuminate ‘softer’ indicators like voter trust and political perceptions.

“We hope the initiative can become a hub and a repository for scholars interested in all aspects of political contestation and mobilization around climate change and decarbonization,” explains Kennard. The initiative’s data will be shared with scholars to facilitate further research, as well as with policymakers in governments and at international institutions to provide guidance on how and where to implement climate-protective policies. 

“Ultimately we should be concerned if we're seeing that climate change is generating or worsening political instability, because what we're seeing now is only a preview of what we're going to get in the future,” says de la Cuesta. 

For more information about the initiative, please contact King Center Executive Director Jessica Leino at