Recently, various media reports on the manifestation of climate change in the world have become more and more like battlefield reports. These changes are affecting rich countries as well as poorer ones.
Climate change in Africa is a growing threat to Africans as Africa is one of the most vulnerable continents to climate change. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988, Africa’s vulnerability to climate change stems from several factors. Ongoing expert studies say the continent will experience many more extreme weather events over the next 80 years, including intense precipitation, which could lead to flooding and storms. In addition, these disasters are likely to alternate with more severe droughts during the growing season, which could also damage crops and food production.
Recent meteorological studies by experts and scientists from WMO as well as several research institutes show an increasing impact of rising temperatures on Africa. They indicate that western and central regions will be most affected by the effect of weather patterns. Many countries in these regions, including Niger, Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, are expected to experience significant population growth and be particularly vulnerable to climate change. Changing precipitation patterns, rising temperatures and more extreme weather contributed to mounting food insecurity, poverty and displacement in Africa, , compounding the socio-economic and health crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The United Nations has already named the first African country on the brink of famine today because of climate change – Madagascar. The worst drought in four decades has devastated farming communities in the south of the country. In the absence of food, people eat locusts, and cactus leaves to survive. Food prices have multiplied, and locals are selling their land for money to eat. “The pain of a more extreme climate can be seen first-hand, as reports of babies dying and mothers unable to assist them due to their own hunger are rampant. The population are unable to find or afford food and disease has become rife as people’s immune systems are lowered. Against this backdrop, dangerous diseases have spread in the country,” reports Africa News. The UN estimates that 30,000 people in Madagascar are experiencing the highest internationally recognized level of food insecurity – Level 5. There are fears that this number could increase sharply as the country enters its traditional lean season.
Earlier, people in eastern Ethiopia faced the consequences of the drought. Somali region Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Bureau reported the death of about 25,000 cattle in the Dawa Zone of Somali Region in eastern Ethiopia. The population of the region is at risk. About 83,000 people need water and food aid. Out of the total number of people on the brink of starvation, 30,000 are refugees who fled their homes because of the inter-ethnic conflict in the north of the republic. Earlier, residents of another Oromia Region also reported the death of 4,000 cattle and impending famine.
Experts have traced the link between climate change and the conflicts that are likely to occur in Africa. Matthew Rendall, a lecturer at the University of Nottingham whose research focuses on climate change and international relations, argues that it is more likely that less stable, more disaster-prone places like Syria or Somalia will become the climate battlefields. Already poor nations are more likely to suffer from severe food shortages and mass refugee migration.
Concerning Somalia, this country has long struggled with armed conflict on the one hand and climate change on the other. The experience in Mogadishu has already demonstrated that the lack of resources and food and the displacement of citizens, including internally, has not only exacerbated clan tensions but has also placed unprecedented strain on traditional means of dispute resolution. There has been increased fighting between nomadic breeders and farmers, inter-tribal violence, mass migration, political instability, and extremism, which are indicators of the link between climate change and conflict, mainly because most Somalis rely on farming or fishing for food, yet many grazing routes are no longer suitable. Under these conditions, nomadic breeders, anxious to prevent a more significant loss of animals, were forced to go to fertile areas occupied by farmers because the prolonged droughts provoked mass climate migration. When clans migrate between regions the risk of violence from dominant groups in those regions increases. These groups are often seeking to maintain control of resources in their areas. At the same time, further temperature increases and unpredictable meteorological phenomena aggravate the situation.
As analysts emphasise that climate change plays into the hands of al-Shabaab (a formation banned in Russia) militants who ostensibly capitalise upon interclan tensions, resource conflicts and natural disasters. The militants of this terrorist group, given the inability of the Federal Government of Somalia to respond effectively to natural disasters, capitalize on local tensions by recruiting vulnerable citizens through the provision of food and protection. The link between climate and conflict is therefore unlikely to weaken in the short to medium term, remaining a key driver of Somalia’s ongoing conflict fuelling violence in the country.
It cannot be ruled out that Somalia will face increasingly extreme conditions in the near future. At the same time, droughts, floods, cyclones, and dust storms will become more frequent, which will most likely lead to regional insecurity and mass migration to Kenya, Ethiopia.
In this context, the situation in many African countries foreshadows the future climate wars of the 21st century and shows how fragile countries, least prepared to cope with natural climate disasters, are becoming vulnerable to internal conflicts and the actions of terrorist groups.
African nations, objectively unable to cope with the adverse impacts of climate change on their own, therefore looked to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow with great hope, clearly hoping to strengthen adequate support for the region by the wealthy especially Western, nations. However, as evidenced by the results of the ended two-day meeting of heads of states, world leaders have left Glasgow without increased commitments to reduce emissions. Scientists predict a climate disaster for the planet and humanity in this century. Many of these leaders merely used the summit to promote themselves and try to stop the decline of their personal prestige and ratings. For example, American President Biden brought no specific program or initiative on climate change to the summit. And the small moments when he was openly awake on this forum, he used only for another vilification and unfounded criticism of his main geopolitical adversaries; China and Russia.
Although President Biden has brought America back into the Paris Agreement from which his predecessor Donald Trump pulled out, he has never been able to turn the US public and politicians around 180 degrees and convince them to approve increased or specific commitments to cut emissions. What’s more, by the time the summit opened, which was supposed to be the funeral of the coal-fired power industry, the US had burned 20% more coal than last year, which would lead to an 8% increase in US greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, when two hundred countries signed the Paris Agreement in 2015, they agreed to review their commitments every five years! But there was no review at the Glasgow Climate Conference, either by the US or its closest allies.
In addition, rich countries have still not fulfilled their pledges to provide $100 billion a year to developing economies to offset the loss of costly emission reductions.
In this context, Africa, which has been adversely affected by climate change, will just have to wait. And together with the protesters in Europe regarding the futility of the Glasgow Climate Conference, criticize the predatory policies of the rich Western states, particularly the United States.
Vladimir Danilov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.