This public roundtable assessed the range of climate-related security pressures on the continent and the importance of incorporating environmental security into African security policy.
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On February 24, 2022, this webinar will take stock of climate-related security pressures on the continent and priorities for mitigating them.
A strong correlation exists between erratic wet seasons and conflict in areas where transhumant pastoralism spills into agricultural areas. Adverse rainfall shocks in transhumant pastoral territories force groups to migrate to neighboring agricultural territories before final harvest, increasing the likelihood of conflict. Where transhumant pastoral groups have less political power, the likelihood is even greater. Governments must enforce a balance of grazing and cultivating rights to mitigate the growing threat of increased droughts and declining rain fall in agropastoral zones.
Climate change is straining livelihoods across broad swaths of Africa, intensifying instability in multifaceted ways. The continent’s ability to adapt to and mitigate these effects will have global repercussions.
How Climate Change Impacts on Regional Security in West Africa: Exploring the Link to Organised Crime
Climate-dependent livelihoods in West African countries have been under increasing pressure due to climate change. As a result, the growing need for alternate sources of income has spurred an expansion of the illicit economy and predatory behavior from criminal organizations. West Africa is, thus, facing a dual challenge to both mitigate climate impacts on regions that are conflict prone as well as address structural issues such as poor governance and limited state authority in large swathes of the region.
African countries are among the world’s most vulnerable to and least prepared for climate change. African citizens prioritize issues that are related to climate change, such as water supply, food shortages, and agriculture. Rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns have devastated African countries that depend on agriculture. Only about 3 in 10 Africans are fully “climate change literate,” combining awareness of climate change with basic knowledge about its causes and negative effects. Building climate resilience will require commitment and coordination, backed by significant resources and a population that supports prioritizing it.
Africa is more vulnerable to climate change than any other region on the planet. Research has found that climate change is as a threat multiplier, exacerbating existing issues such as political instability, poverty, and unemployment. Conversely, state fragility and poor governance are two of the principle circumstances that cripple communities’ ability to adapt to climate change. Meanwhile, Africa’s population is growing rapidly. This map reflects a few of the ways that climate change the changing environment is straining Africa’s social systems.
Amid irrational fears that climate change is going to cause a flood of African migration to Europe, there is no evidence that a drought has ever increased such unauthorized migration. Rather, the incidence of drought has tended to exert a negative, albeit moderate, impact on the size of migration flows, in particular for countries dependent on agriculture. Higher levels of rainfall have also not led to increased levels of unauthorized emigration. In short, international migration is cost-prohibitive, and adverse weather shocks reinforce existing financial barriers to migration.
Challenges to climate-related security include but are not limited to resource competition, shocks to food security, climate-induced migration, transboundary water management, and unintended consequences from climate policies. Mainstreaming a climate perspective into existing programming can help reduce the risks. However, to ensure success in fragile states, progress may sometimes depend on whether the domestic elite finds it is in their self-interest to embrace such policies.
This climate-fragility risk assessment identifies the key drivers for future conflict drawing on hydrological data, satellite observations, and interviews across Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger. Dramatic changes in temperature and growing population density have added strain to the areas surrounding Lake Chad. Clearer land rights that allow farmers, fishermen, and pastoralists to use the same land would improve efficiency and reduce the risk of exacerbating conflict.
“Climate change causing conflict” arguments are not supported by the evidence. There is no evidence, for example, that pastoralist versus farmer conflicts in Africa are due to climate change. There is, however, much evidence that these conflicts are the result of government interference in local distribution of resources, access to land, and even the disappearance of state presence.
Unaccountable regimes in Africa are highly vulnerable to exploitation by external authoritarian actors—at a heavy cost to citizen sovereignty.