Climate Change and Conflict

As world leaders gather at the United Nations for the 72nd Regular Session of the UN General Assembly, this year’s theme is “Focusing on People: Striving for Peace and a Decent Life for All on a Sustainable Planet.” This theme is in contrast with President Trump’s “America First” policy, which emphasizes isolationism. This was evident in President Trump’s UN speech as well as his decision to leave the Paris Climate Accord, a framework designed to fight “atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.” In one of his tweets in 2012, Donald Trump wrote, “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” Throughout the international scientific community, there’s widespread unanimity about the existence of anthropogenic climate change. Nevertheless, President Trump’s stance on climate change is obstinately rejecting a carbon consumption driver of rising sea-levels, more intense natural disasters such as forest fires, droughts, hurricanes and other threats.

Violence is a profound threat and it is likely exacerbated by climate chaos. Global warming as an important effect on civil conflicts has been recently debated by many scholars and policymakers. Scholars from backgrounds as diverse as economics, climate science, peace studies, and political science have explored the adverse effects of climate change and ecological changes on civil conflicts.

Undoubtedly, climate change is a problem that all countries have to struggle with, but the costs and benefits of rising global temperatures often differ across countries and regions. From severe floods across South Asia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, parts of the Gambia to hurricanes in the Caribbean, Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico, the effects of climate change, particularly natural disasters, rising sea-levels, and growing resource shortage are often quoted as the cause to loss of livelihood, economic decay, forced migration, and an increased uncertainty in some parts of the world.

Most reports on the effects of climate change imply that poor countries would endure the burden of climate change. For instance, in 2010, the Department of Defense first highlighted the security threat of global warming, as “an accelerant” for conflict. A study entitled, “Warming increases the risk of civil war in Africa,” presentedto the United States National Academy of Sciences suggests that rising temperatures in Africa have corresponded with substantial upturns in the possibility of civil conflict. Also, Ban Ki-moon, former U.N. Secretary-General once termed the conflict in Darfur, Sudan as the “world’s first climate change conflict.” Similarly, a study conducted by the Unites States Institute for Peace recognized a “basic causal mechanism” that “links climate change with violence in Nigeria.” It is believed that severe drought facilitated the instability in Nigeria, which was exploited by Boko Haram. In Syria, climate change is not the reason of the six-year civil war, nonetheless, ISIS is exploiting the country’s worst droughts, which displaced hundreds of thousands into extreme poverty and food insecurity. I am not insinuating that climate change creates terrorists, rather, the conditions in these countries helps terrorist groups to readily recruit and thrive. The supposition is that water scarcity, decreasing crop yields, advancing desertification and resource shortages from rainfall patterns stemming from climate change added to or exacerbated conflict in these countries.

President Trump’s position on climate change is unhelpful. The United States is among the biggest carbon polluters in the world, yet it is resigning from its global leadership position to mitigate the consequences climate change, which demands international cooperation. Without the Unites States’ commitment and global leadership to fight climate change it will unequivocally bring more uncertainty across the world. The “America first” policy, particularly leaving the Paris Climate Accord, could have an overwhelming impact on regions where dependence on farming and other climate sectors for production are way of livelihood. It also controverts the status of the United States in the international community. In cumulative terms, the United States has more to squander if the economic effects of climate change are not addressed. Are these worthy, pragmatic, ethical, or realistic risks?

In order to efficiently address the adverse effects of climate change on societies globally, a thorough approach is needed at both the local and international levels. The UN along with regional organizations must develop a framework for sustainable development and economic growth for communities that are most affected by the impact of climate change.

This framework ought to be centered on a low-carbon economy, that reduces both greenhouse gases and other climate pollutants to mitigate climate change and decrease threats to global security and prosperity.  

More articles by:

Foday Justice Darboe is a Ph.D. candidate in Conflict Analysis and Transformation.

Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes
John W. Whitehead
Say No to “Hardening” the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops
Edward Hunt
UN: US Attack On Syrian Civilians Violated International Law
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Outside History
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Long Hard Road
Victor Grossman
Germany: New Faces, Old Policies
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion
Binoy Kampmark
Amazon’s Initiative: Digital Assistants, Home Surveillance and Data
Chuck Collins
Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line
Jill Richardson
What We Talk About When We Talk About “Free Trade”
Eric Lerner – Jay Arena
A Spark to a Wider Fire: Movement Against Immigrant Detention in New Jersey
Negin Owliaei
Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
What to Do at the End of the World? Interview with Climate Crisis Activist, Kevin Hester
Kevin Proescholdt
Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke Attacks America’s Wilderness
Franklin Lamb
Syrian War Crimes Tribunals Around the Corner
Beth Porter
Clean Energy is Calling. Will Your Phone Company Answer?
George Ochenski
Zinke on the Hot Seat Again and Again
Lance Olsen
Somebody’s Going to Extremes
Robert Koehler
Breaking the Ice
Pepe Escobar
The Myth of a Neo-Imperial China
Graham Peebles
Time for Political Change and Unity in Ethiopia
Terry Simons
10 American Myths “Refutiated”*
Thomas Knapp
Some Questions from the Edge of Immortality
Louis Proyect
The 2018 Socially Relevant Film Festival
David Yearsley
Keaton’s “The General” and the Pernicious Myths of the Heroic South