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Climate change could increase the likelihood of civil war in sub-Saharan Africa by 50% within the next 20 years, leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths, it has been claimed.

Researchers at Stanford University in California combined historical data on civil wars with rainfall and temperature records across Africa.

They found that between 1980 and 2002, civil wars were significantly more likely to break out in warmer than average years. A 1C increase in temperature in a given year increased the incidence of conflict by almost 50%.

This trend was then applied to future projections from 20 global climate simulations. The results suggested that the incidence of African civil wars could increase by 55% by 2030, causing an estimated 390,000 extra conflict-related deaths.

Economist Professor Edward Miguel, one of the US researchers from the University of California at Berkeley, said: “The large majority of the poor in most African countries depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, and their crops are quite sensitive to small changes in temperature. So when temperatures rise, the livelihoods of many in Africa suffer greatly, and the disadvantaged become more likely to take up arms.”

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