Would Climate Change Lead to New Wars in Africa?

Published 12 Sep 2017

It is not possible to completely agree with UNEP’s 2007 assessment that climate change would trigger a succession of new wars in Africa. After all, climate scientists have already informed the global public that climate change may suddenly put an end to the world if it triggers a new ice age without warning. If that does not happen, however, it is certainly possible for climate change to lead to new wars in the poorest continent of the world. After all, climate change is expected to accompany an increase in floods, epidemics, droughts, degradation of land, in addition to resource conflicts in the region (Henning, RC). Because “negatively changing climate” is known to disproportionately affect the poor rather than the rich people, Africa, being the poorest continent of the world, is most vulnerable to it (Henning, RC). In fact, even the smallest “increases in extreme weather frequency” or reductions in precipitation are expected to have devastating effects on the lives of poor Africans (Henning, RC).

It is further believed that climate change has already driven warfare in both Ethiopia and Sudan. In Ethiopia, for example, rivers are running dry and annual precipitation has changed dramatically (Sachs, J 2005). In the region south of the famous Sahara desert, there has not only been a significant reduction in rainfall but also “a rise in the surface temperature (Sachs, J).” According to Sachs, reduction in rainfall may be accompanied by famines, water starvation, in addition to “chronic hunger”. Also according to the author, when violence erupts in places such as Sudan and Darfur, politicians refuse to understand the real reason for it (Sachs, J). As a matter of fact, both Sudan and Darfur are “water-starved (Sachs, J)”. Instead of mobilizing peacekeepers, politicians must therefore work to alleviate the hardship of starvation faced by the people of these regions (Sachs, J). After all, famished, thirty people may very well turn to violence if it appears as the best way for them to feed themselves and quench their thirst.

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In Darfur, problems between farmers (the Africans) and herders (the Arabs) were going on for a long time before the full scale genocide began. Undoubtedly, these problems were centered upon scarcity of resources. In recent years, many women were raped in the region as they left their refugee camps in search of fuel for their cooking needs (Ooko, SA 2008). Thus, climate change worsens the poverty of the people of Africa, leading them to greater crimes. Ongoing conflicts on the continent are also expected to intensify because of changing climate. It has been reported that North Africa is most vulnerable to regional wars and intensification of ongoing conflicts. In this region, crop yields are dwindling at the same time as the population continues to increase. Because politicians of Africa are not skilled enough to handle such problems as yet, political crises are expected to worsen as well. Africans may also start to migrate in greater numbers from regions that are negatively affected by climate change (Climate Change 2007). After all, even the Nile delta, a source of great hope for North Africans, is presently at risk from the “salinisation of farmland”; in addition to rising sea levels (Climate Change 2007).

Indeed, it is quite possible for Africa to experience a succession of new wars or exacerbation of old conflicts because of the negative effects of climate change. Nevertheless, scientists and politicians may work in tandem to find solutions to the problems faced by Africans due to climate change (Sachs, J). Then again, if a global ice age starts without notice, Africa would not require such solutions at all.


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