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Climate Change and Political Mobilization in the Global South

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Climate change is already having profound impacts on human health, economic growth, migration, and armed conflict. Through these impacts themselves, and through actions taken to mitigate them, climate change is also expected to increase political instability. How these dynamics play out in the developing world—the region where impacts are likely to be largest and where carbon emissions are growing most quickly—has received little to no scientific attention. Yet the answer has critical implications for policymakers and governments who are seeking to insulate their citizens from climate-associated damages.

The initiative is investigating how pressures emanating from the natural world in the wake of climate change increasingly shape politics in the Global South. The team will assemble comprehensive data on climate impacts, public opinion, and political behavior in order to assess the impact of climate pressures on perceptions of incumbent and opposition leaders; support for democratic institutions; rates of intra-community cooperation, reciprocity, and trust; and electoral and protest behavior across geographic scales.

All resulting data will be disseminated to the broader scholarly community to facilitate further research, and to policymakers in government and at international institutions; the goal of the latter is to inform policy debates on how and where to implement climate-protective policies. This work stands to significantly improve our understanding of how the developing world will be affected by climate change, including whether climate change itself could undermine the political feasibility of meaningful action on mitigation or adaptation. This research fills a critical gap in an area of the world where the effects of warming are likely to be the largest, most destructive, and most politically destabilizing.

Principal Investigators

  • Amanda Kennard, Department of Political Science; Woods Institute for the Environment; and Doerr School of Sustainability (by courtesy)
  • Brandon de la Cuesta, Center for Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL); and Center for Food Security and the Environment (FSE)


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