Sunday, April 13, 2008

Climate change, drought and civil war

In a column entitled "Extended Forecast: Bloodshed", Nicholas Kristof discusses how the failure to confront global warming and climate change results in internal violence and civil war in effected countries and regions of the world.

He sites research that suggests a drought in one year will increase by an amazing 50% the chance of an African country slipping into civil war the next!

He writes:

As we pump out greenhouse gases, most of the discussion focuses on direct consequences like rising seas or aggravated hurricanes. But the indirect social and political impact in poor countries may be even more far-reaching, including upheavals and civil wars...

The point is that climate change will have consequences that will be difficult to foresee but will go far beyond weather or economics. There is abundant evidence that economic stress and crop failures — as climate scientists anticipate in poor countries — can lead to violence and upheavals.

In the United States, for example, some historians have found correlations between recessions or declines in farm values and increased lynchings of blacks.

Paul Collier, an Oxford University expert on global poverty, found that economic stagnation in poor countries leads to a rising risk of civil war. Professor Collier warns that climate change is likely to reduce rainfall in southern Africa enough that corn will no longer be a viable crop there. Since corn is a major form of sustenance in that region, the result may be catastrophic food shortages — and civil conflict.

The area that may be hardest hit of all — aside from islands that disappear beneath the waves — is the fragile Sahel region south of the Sahara Desert in West Africa. The Sahel is already impoverished and torn by religious and ethnic tensions, and reduced rainfall could push the region into warfare.

"The poorest people on Earth are in the Sahel, barely eking out an existence, and climate change pushes them over the edge,” Professor Miguel said. “It’s totally unfair.”

His research suggests that a drought one year increases by 50 percent the risk that an African country will slip into civil war the next year.

Ethnic conflict in Darfur was exacerbated by drought and competition for water, and some experts see it as the first war caused by climate change. That’s too simplistic, for the crucial factor was simply the ruthlessness of the Sudanese government, but climate change may well have been a contributing factor.

In a forthcoming book, “Economic Gangsters,” Mr. Miguel calls for a new system of emergency aid for countries suffering unusual drought or similar economic shocks. Such temporary aid would aim to reduce the risk of warfare that, once it has begun, is enormously costly to stop and often damages neighboring countries as well.

The greenhouse gases that imperil Africa’s future are spewing from the United States, China and Europe. The people in Bangladesh and Africa emit almost no carbon, yet they are the ones who will bear the greatest risks of climate change. Some experts believe that the damage that the West does to poor countries from carbon emissions exceeds the benefit from aid programs.
All this makes the United States’ reluctance to confront climate change in a serious way — like a carbon tax to replace the payroll tax, coupled with global leadership on the issue — as unjust as it is unfortunate.


Anonymous said...

Climate change is the greatest hoax put on the American people. More than 500 scientist have come out as skeptical about global warming. Carbon only make up less than 1% of the total atmosphere, water vapor is the greatest greenhouse gas. Global warming is a political way to tax rich countries and give it to poor. It is the greatest wealth distribution plan ever. I saw an excellent presentation on C-Span yesterday put on by the Heritage Foundation debunking man-made global warming and what a carbon-tax or cap and trade would do to the economy. So please keep on writing your socialist views, maybe when you get away from your cush college job and get in the real world, I will give you some credibility.

Anonymous said...

anonymous is obviously one of those few people who instead of presenting any facts decides to ridicule and demean anyone who doesn't agree. And 500 scientists have come out as skeptical vs. the thousands who have come out in favor. doesn't seem like such a big number relatively speaking, does it? global warming has been accepted by almost all respectable scientists without their own agenda (not those included in the Heritage Foundation - a right wing think tank that is more concerned with keeping the rich rich and the poor poor). Even Bush now acknowledges the problem of climate change and global warming. and what is so wrong with helping out poor countries? you conservatives talk about all of your morals...there is no morality in greed!

John P said...

To the 2nd Anony:

Since when is science consensus? I thought when one has a theory, they want everyone to try to prove it wrong? But this is not the case with the GW crowd. They do not want to debate. Maybe you should read the article in today's (4/18)wall street journal. I guess that is only for the rich also.

Regarding helping the poor, I am all for that on a personal level. The government should not force it on someone. If you look at statistics, conservative people give a hell of a lot more to the poor than liberals.

I have never heard anything from the pro global warming crowd that answers the reasonable skeptical questions. Why is this? The Heritage Foundation is not for keeping rich people rich. It is for upholding conservative values, which has nothing to do with being rich.