Humanosity says the effects of climate change on the environment are becoming more and more evident. We recently looked at the case of disappearing birds and have covered many aspects of the impact. However the effects of climate change on people is going to be huge and will make the world a more dangerous place.
Somalia has long been the poster child of failed states. The overthrow of President Siad Barre in 1991 plunged the country into nearly 30 years of violence. First, it was the clan warlords which led to the US intervention which became immortalised in the film Blackhawk Down. Now it’s the turn of Islamist militants Al Shabaab who want to overthrow the central government and institute an Islamic state based on Sharia.
Following the pullout of US forces responsibility has fallen to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) who have been using forces from other East African countries to battle the militants.
However a new report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) that UNSOM mission was being made increasingly difficult by increasingly severe droughts.
“What surprised me most was the impact that climate change has on pretty much every element of UNSOM’s mandate,” report co-author Florian Krampe told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“Climate change deeply burdens UNSOM in its work to provide peace and security, and also in its efforts to establish functioning governance and judicial systems.”
He said people escaping weather crises were vulnerable to recruitment by militants, crowded camps became hotbeds for traffickers and more fights erupted over resources. Militants also exploited climate crises to win legitimacy, he added.
Climate Change in the Horn of Africa
The changing climate is causing problems right across the region with increasingly erratic weather and low rainfall common in Kenya, Somalia, Uganda and Ethiopia.
The increasing regularity of dry spells is destroying crops and pastures, pushing millions of people who rely on agriculture for survival to the brink of extreme hunger. In Somalia, the UN estimates that more than 2.5 million people have been forced from their homes by drought and insecurity in recent years.
According to the report;
Rising conflict between cattle herders and farmers over water and land was a challenge for UNSOM, while people on the move were vulnerable to recruitment by Al Shabaab.
“Climate impacts have contributed to an increase in the number of IDPs (internally displaced people) that moved to urban areas, such as Mogadishu, and who are living in improvised camps. These camps have become hotspots for criminal activities such as human trafficking and child exploitation, and as a recruitment ground for Al Shabaab.”
The Local Impact of Climate Change
Some of the effects are less obvious but just as serious.
A pickup in migration has left a glaring gap in local governance as many of the elders who typically mediate conflicts are no longer there. The report found Al Shabaab had learned to take advantage of natural disasters by helping victims and legitimising its power.
“Al Shabaab collects food and money through its distribution centres, to provide disaster relief to those affected,” it said. The increasingly cyclical occurrence of drought, flood and famine assures Al Shabaab the opportunity to showcase its position as a relief provider.”
Unfortunately, this is likely to be a pattern that is repeated to greater and lesser degrees across the planet. Much of the exodus of Africans to Europe in search of better lives can be traced back to the negative impact of climate change on farming in and around the Sahel. It’s no surprise that these same areas are also synonymous with increasing instability and conflict.