FutureLab - Security, Ethnic Conflicts and Migration


FutureLab on Security, Ethnic Conflicts and Migration

Lead: Jacob Schewe, Barbora Sedova

Team: Albano Rikani, Lucas Kluge, Benedikt Mester, Sidney Michelini, Lisa Binder


Over the past decades, research has established that climate change affects the patterns of human migration and the emergence of violent conflicts. Yet, the growing empirical literature delivers mixed findings. Even though various attempts to explain this heterogeneity and to summarize the outcomes have advanced our understanding, some fundamental questions prevail: i) how and ii) in which specific contexts do climatic events affect human migration and conflict emergence?; iii) what are the related future risks resulting from climate change?

With this FutureLab, PIK kick-starts dedicated research on the implications of climate change for human security and conflict, accounting for the potential roles of human migration and displacement as drivers, outcomes, or mediating factors. The research emphasizes the role of cities and the important differences between urban and rural environments. In an already rapidly urbanizing world, climate change increasingly pushes people from rural to urban areas. At the same time, urban areas are increasingly becoming hot spots of violence. Thus, cities have become the frontier where migration meets conflict. Yet, especially in the context of the developing world, research has mainly focused on rural areas, where violence has traditionally been concentrated. In addition, the role of cities as migration hubs that link internal migration and displacement with international migration has not received much attention in the quantitative literature. Lastly, cities, and especially the vulnerable urban poor, are highly susceptible to a range of adverse climate impacts. The FutureLab addresses these important gaps in the literature.

Research questions:

  • What are the climate-related drivers of conflict? How do these differ between rural and urban areas? How do they interact with other conflict drivers?
  • How do specifically climate change-induced migration and food in-/security affect conflict emergence?
  • What is the fitting framework to study climate-related conflict?
  • What/ where are the future risks of conflict emergence and how to mitigate these?

With this research agenda, this FutureLab aims to substantially advance quantitative evidence on the implications of climate change for security, conflicts, and migration; enable informed management of risks and opportunities resulting from climate-induced migration and conflict; and to provide essential information for the private and public decision makers.


A quantitative understanding of the climate-conflict-migration nexus requires an integration of approaches from natural and social sciences. With its wealth of researchers from across disciplines, PIK is extremely well placed for pursuing this research agenda. The FutureLab is hosted by RD3 and collaborates with RD4. It draws on economic and social theories of conflict and migration and applies approaches from physical modelling of climate change impacts, machine learning and econometrics. The FutureLab uses the migration modeling capacities developed by the Working Group on Climate Impacts on Human Population Dynamics (RD3), and a combination of machine-learning- and big-data methods developed in RD4.

Associated Projects:

German Federal Foreign Office-funded project: Weathering Risk: A Climate and Security Risk and Foresight Assessment