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Environmental Displacement and Political Violence

This project conducts a theoretical and empirical investigation into the security consequences of environmental migration, specifically how and under what conditions environmental displacement impacts the onset and dynamics of violent conflict. Environmental displacement remains one of the defining global challenges of the 21st century. Natural hazards already displace more people every year than war, and environmental migration is expected to intensify as the effects of climate change unfold. Prophesies of "climate refugees" and impending security crises have brought environmental migration to the docket of government security programs and nearly every major IGOs. However, much remains unknown about the potential destabilizing impacts of environmental migration. My research investigates 

As part of this project, I developed the Environmental Displacement Dataset (EnDis), an original dataset that identifies dislocations in response to six different types of environmental hazards. EnDis currently includes coverage for all of Africa from 1989-2017, and the dataset is currently being expanded for global coverage. Scholars have increasingly called for improved comparative data on environmental migration, and EnDis offers an important trans-disciplinary contribution for researchers seeking to understand the causes, dynamics, and consequences of environmental displacement. Email author for codebook and data. 


The inaugural article from this research agenda, “Environmental Displacement and Political Instability: Evidence from Africa,” is currently under review in Journal of Peace Research. My ongoing research examines how environmental displacement interacts with armed conflict to impact rebel-state military interactions and civilian victimization.

Environmental Dimensions of Peace Agreements

This project investigates environmental politics in the context of violent conflict resolution. Since the end of the Cold War, most violent conflicts have been resolved through peace treaties. It examines how peace treaties can be a catalyst for environmental action by addressing questions such as 1) why are some peace agreements more attentive to environment change and natural resources than others, and 2) how does the inclusion of environmental provisions affect post-war outcomes including environmental restoration, adaptation, and stability. With generous startup support from the Environmental Change Initiative, I am currently developing the Environmental Peace Accords dataset, the first comprehensive dataset that captures the broad spectrum of environmental provisions in interstate and intrastate peace treaties, including those that address natural hazards, war-related environmental degradation, natural resource management, and climate change adaptation, and sustainable development.


While much of my research centers on the environment-conflict nexus, I also collaborate with an interdisciplinary team of scholars examining the drivers of climate change adaptation and mitigation. Recognizing that tackling the climate crisis requires comprehensive and coordinated action, we capitalize on expertise from engineering, anthropology, political science, and sociology to uncover new knowledge about what motivates individuals, communities, and governments to take climate action. 

Under this umbrella, one of our projects focuses on climate change adaptation among coastal communities in the United States. Approximately 50% of the entire US population is concentrated in coastal counties, and these residents are increasingly vulnerable to disasters related to sea level rise, flooding, erosion, tropical storms, among other hazards. Drawing on innovative survey data from the 2017 Coastal Homeowners Survey, we investigate the extent to which factors such as beliefs about global warming, political attitudes, and economic incentives motivate coastal residents to take action to protect themselves from environmental hazards. Our paper titled “Does it matter if you “believe” in climate change? Not for coastal home vulnerability” was published in the journal Climatic Change and received the Paul A. Sabatier Award from the American Political Science Association. A second paper titled “Do Perverse Insurance Incentives Encourage Coastal Vulnerability?” is forthcoming in Natural Hazards Review. A third article focusing on the role of economic incentives for coastal adaptation is in progress. 

Another ongoing project examines the relationship between national-level institutions and climate change mitigation. In a paper titled "Is democracy the answer to intractable climate change?," my co-authors and I revisit the long-standing debate regarding whether democratic regimes are better equipped than their authoritarian counterparts to mitigate the climate crisis. We address the theoretical foundations of prior research and advance evidence with updated data and a quasi-experimental research design for improved causal inference. This manuscript is currently being reviewed by the American Political Science Review. 


Chesler, A., Javeline, D., Peh, K., & Scogin, S. Is democracy the answer to intractable climate change?. Under review in American Political Science Review.

Javeline, D., Kijewski-Correa, T., & Chesler, A. Do perverse insurance incentives encourage coastal vulnerability?. Forthcoming in Natural Hazards Review.

Javeline, D., Kijewski-Correa, T., & Chesler, A. (2019). Does it matter if you “believe” in climate change? Not for coastal home vulnerability. Climatic Change, 155(4), 511-532. Winner of the Paul A. Sabatier Award from the American Political Science Association. Available here.

Politics of state repression


More states than ever before are yielding political authority to subnational polities, transforming the fundamental architecture of governance. A major force behind this revolution is the perception that regional self-governance offers a vehicle for democracy and peace in divided societies. Yet, transitions to self-rule have proven remarkably deadly, and autonomous regions have been a focal point for state-sponsored civilian massacres. My dissertation research investigates the politics of mass civilian killing in the context of territorial self-rule. I argue that central government elites employ mass civilian killing as a strategy of regional consolidation to reassert political monopoly in autonomous territories.


My empirical investigation adopts a two-pronged approach, leveraging both quantitative and qualitative methods for evidentiary rigor. In the quantitative stage of the analysis, I use original data and a new quasi-experimental statistical method to test for the causal effect of regional autonomy on the incidence of state-led civilian killing globally from 1989-2017. 

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