Climate change is inherently unfair. It tends to most affect the poorest countries that have the lowest carbon emissions. By adding pressure to already strained environmental and economic systems, climate change exacerbates resource competition, intercommunal grievances, state fragility, and other vulnerabilities. Countries in conflict, in turn, are less able to focus on conservation and long-term adaptation.
With every 0.5-degree Celsius increase in local temperatures, the risk of conflict increases 10-20 percent. Globally, the period from 2011 to 2020 was the hottest decade ever recorded. The Sahel was particularly affected, with temperatures rising 1.5 times the international average during this period. Eight of the ten countries most vulnerable to climate change are in Africa. Six of those eight are facing armed conflict.
Climate change looms large across Africa, with each region facing a different mix of climate-induced risks. Following are illustrative cases of how climate change is contributing to instability in Africa.
- Mark Duerksen, “Nigeria’s Diverse Security Threats,” Spotlight, Africa Center for Strategic Studies, March 30, 2021.
- Africa Center for Strategic Studies, “Autocracy and Instability in Africa,” Infographic, March 9, 2021.
- Africa Center for Strategic Studies, “Combating Desertification Imperative for Security,” Spotlight, June 16, 2017.
- André Standing, “Criminality in Africa’s Fishing Industries: A Threat to Human Security,” Africa Security Brief No. 33, Africa Center for Strategic Studies, June 2017.