Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
New Study Asserts Climate Change Will Increase
Conflicts in Africa
By Cyril Mychalejko
ccun.org, December 3, 2009
Darfur just may be the tip of the melting iceberg. A new study
suggests that if world leaders fail to reach a meaningful agreement in
Copenhagen to curb climate change Africa will be ravaged by more wars and
corpses in the coming decades.
"If the sub-Saharan climate continues
to warm and little is done to help its countries better adapt to high
temperatures, the human costs are likely to be staggering,"
said UC-Berkeley's Marshall Burke, the study's lead author.
increases the risk of civil war in Africa," published online last week
by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), states that
there are "strong historical linkages between civil war and temperature in
Africa, with warmer years leading to significant increases in the
likelihood of war." Using climate model projections it estimates a
"roughly 54% increase in armed conflict incidence by 2030, or an
additional 393,000 battle deaths if future wars are as deadly as recent
wars." The study, which uses data between 1981-2002, shows that a 1 degree
Celsius increase in temperature "represents a remarkable 49% increase in
the incidence of civil war."
"We were definitely surprised that the
linkages between temperature and recent conflict were so strong," said
co-author Edward Miguel, professor of economics at UC-Berkeley and faculty
director of UC -Berkeley's Center for Evaluation for Global Action. "But
the result makes sense. 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."
The study comes
on the heels of
statements by scientists from the
Project that if we don’t drastically reduce our carbon emissions the
world is on course for a 6 degrees Celsius increase in temperature by the
end of the century. Of course if this doomsday scenario comes to fruition
we won’t have to worry about wars in Africa—the human race, along with all
other forms of life, will be nearly wiped off the face of the earth.
While the study focused solely on temperature change, experts have
argued that other climate change factors, such as changes in precipitation
levels, water scarcity, lack of arable land and migration are also
contributing to conflicts. The Los Angeles Times published an article on
Friday appropriately asking
"Have the climate wars of Africa begun?.” The article examines recent
tribal fighting in Kenya over water and pastures, which the UN believes is
responsible for at least 400 deaths this year. Libya, another war torn
dealing with longer rainy seasons, rising sea levels and increases in
flooding. Climate change is also believed to be a contributing factor in
escalation of violence in Darfur. Writing in
The Washington Post, Ban Ki Moon, secretary general of the United
Nations, noted that "Amid the diverse social and political causes, the
Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis, arising at least in part
from climate change."
Another recent study conducted by a group of military experts
contracted by the Institute for Environmental Security in The Hague
supports the US researchers´ claims linking climate change to war.
“Failure to recognise the conflict and instability implications of
climate change and to invest in a range of preventive and adaptive actions
will be very costly in terms of destabilising nations, causing human
suffering, retarding development and providing the required military
response,” retired Indian air marshal AK Singh, who chairs the institute’s
military council, told South Africa´s
& Guardian Online.
Nana Poku, Professor of African Studies at
the UK's Bradford University, told the
that the US-based study makes the case for
debt", an idea growing in popularity around the world "that rich
countries should pay reparations to poor countries for the climate
"I think it strengthens the argument for ensuring we
compensate the developing world for climate change, especially Africa, and
to begin looking at how we link environmental issues to governance," said
Poku . "If the argument is that the trend towards rising temperatures will
increase conflict, then yes we need to do something around climate change,
but more fundamentally we need to resolve the conflicts in the first
Cyril Mychalejko is an editor at
www.UpsideDownWorld.org, an online magazine
covering politics and activism in Latin America. He also serves on the
board of the Canary Institute.