climate massacre. Is Africa witnessing a new generation of wars with nature?

Despite the talk of sixth-generation wars, which was highlighted by the Russian experience in Syria through the development of “non-nuclear” or “pre-nuclear” deterrence, and the use of non-contact tactics through targeted attacks of high precision, there are other wars that man faces with the adversities and vagaries of nature. .

In September 2022, the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, used a new term to describe climate change and its impact on sustainable development efforts. Touring parts of Pakistan hit by devastating floods, he said he had “never witnessed climate carnage on this scale.” This weather catastrophe caused the deaths of almost 1,400 people as a result of floods that covered an area as large as the United Kingdom and destroyed crops and livestock, as well as homes, businesses, roads and bridges.

In the same vein, Africa is often described as the continent most vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change, either because of the expected change itself or because of the perceived lack of adaptive capacity of Africans and their governments. What are the most important issues of the climate carnage, its dimensions and its impact on the future of Africa?

structural defect:

We learned from the early stages of study that the Earth’s climate is always changing, but due to the activities of humans in the age of technology, it is changing faster now than it was thousands of years ago. Which is what everyone, including scientists and politicians, means when they talk about climate change today. It is clear that this climate change, which has become something of a “massacre” in terms of its devastating effects, will stay with us for a long time, and will affect almost all areas of life, from health and feed to market. sector and national economies.

Climate change threatens to undo much of the progress African countries have made in sustainable development. It threatens food and water security, political and economic stability, livelihoods and even landscapes. On the other hand, this severe climate change, which threatens all the inhabitants of the globe, provides an opportunity for politicians and economists to work for the benefit of all. This existential challenge can spur the creation of innovative economic models and solutions, new approaches to sustainable development, and new ways of using knowledge in innovative ways nationally and internationally, similar to what the United Arab Emirates started by creating a new ministry. in the name of climate change and the environment.

On the other hand, Africa currently faces unbearable challenges as a result of the inequality that dominates the global climate change record, since climate change primarily reflects structural injustices in the current international system. The countries and people most at risk from its devastating effects and least able to adapt to it are the least contributing to the emergence of the problem. If the poorest countries want to achieve economic growth by the same means that industrialized countries have benefited from – burning coal and deforesting, for example – they will only exacerbate the problem of climate change.

Although the richest countries argue that everyone – including the poorest – should work to contain climate change; But when poor countries ask rich countries for help, they don’t get the financing and technology they need. By 2030, it is estimated that up to 118 million extremely poor people will be exposed to drought, floods and extreme heat in Africa if appropriate response measures are not taken, according to the African Union Commission on Rural Economy and Agriculture. Although this phenomenon is not unique to Africa, the lack of safety nets and support services for smallholder farmers in particular raises concerns that farms affected by climate change may not survive in Africa.

Seven consequences:

We can talk about seven dimensions of climate change at the African level as follows:

1- Floods:

Floods are one of the consequences of climate change in Africa, and are the most frequent natural disasters in most regions of Africa. For example, the devastating 2001 flood in northern Algeria caused the death of 800 people and almost $400 million in economic losses. The 2000 floods in Mozambique (exacerbated by two cyclones) killed 800 people, displaced some 2 million people, of whom about 1 million needed food, and damaged areas of agricultural production. According to the National Emergency Management Agency, 33 of Nigeria’s 36 states were affected by flooding in 2022. Many of the affected states are food producers. However, some of these states are under double attack, by floods and armed terrorist groups.

2- High temperatures:

Global temperatures are expected to rise 3°C this century. Climate change in Africa is likely to affect precipitation rates. The number of hot days in West and Central Africa will increase significantly by 1.5-2°C. Temperatures are expected to rise faster by 2°C in South Africa and parts of the southwestern region, as well as parts of Namibia and Botswana, where temperatures are expected to rise significantly. This is probably mainly due to deforestation.

3- Dehydration:

Drought, desertification, and resource scarcity have exacerbated conflicts between farmers and herders, while poor governance has led to social unrest. The retreat of Lake Chad, due to climate change, is causing economic marginalization and creating fertile ground for the recruitment of terrorists with diminishing social values ​​and moral authority. Across the Horn of Africa, at least 36.1 million people will be affected by severe drought by October 2022, including 24.1 million in Ethiopia, 7.8 million in Somalia and 4.2 million in Kenya. This represents a significant increase since July 2022 (when an estimated 19.4 million people were affected), reflecting the impact of drought in other regions of Ethiopia, as well as increased needs in Somalia and Kenya. .

4- Water Supply and Quality:

Climate change affects water resources in Africa in many ways, including floods, droughts, changes in precipitation patterns, river drying, glacier melting, and receding water bodies. When the water level in the great rivers of Africa falls, the entire economy collapses. Ghana, for example, is completely dependent on the Akosombo Dam for hydroelectric power generation on the Volta River. The people of Mali also depend on the Niger River for food, drink and travel. However, pollution has caused environmental destruction along the banks of much of the river. An indicative example here is that half the population in Nigeria does not have access to clean drinking water. Climate change is also causing the gradual, catastrophic retreat of the glaciers on Mount Kilimanjaro. The conflict over the Renaissance Dam between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt provides another example of the impact of drought and water scarcity and their transformation into an existential security threat in the countries of the Nile basin.

5- Economic effects:

The economic impact of climate change in Africa is too great to bear. Sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP could contract by 3% by 2050. Perhaps this will clearly contribute to increasing the proportion of poor and marginalized people in Africa. It is estimated that one in three Africans, or more than 400 million people, live below the global poverty line of less than $1.90 a day, including going hungry and having limited access to education, electricity and health services.

6- Agriculture:

Climate change in Africa could destabilize local markets, exacerbate food insecurity, slow economic growth and put agricultural investors at risk. Agriculture in Africa is particularly sensitive to the effects of climate change, as it is primarily dependent on rainfall, which has been severely affected by climate change across the continent. For example, the Sahel region is highly dependent on rainfed agriculture and is already vulnerable to droughts and floods that damage crops and reduce productivity. In African countries, periods of rain (causing droughts) or heavy rains (causing floods) will be shorter, as temperatures will rise 1.5 times faster than in the rest of the world by the end of the century, It will reduce food production due to lack of infrastructure and supporting food systems. By 2030, crop yields are expected to decline to varying degrees across the continent, depending on location. In South Africa, for example, rainfall is expected to decrease by 20%.

7- Migration and displacement:

Rising temperatures affect the habitability of some regions. However, climate-related migration pressures are likely to reflect diminishing agricultural opportunities, implying the inevitable movement of people from rural to urban areas, a trend that is already underway and, to a lesser extent, migration across national borders. Migration in Africa has been linked to climate and related conflicts, for example, in the Sahel region, Darfur has been cited as the world’s first climate conflict. Clearly, the weather has played some role in the conflict, and will no doubt continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Towards a securitization of climate change:

The evolving perception of climate threats as a security issue has led to the use of the term “climate massacre” by the United Nations Secretary-General during his inspection of the floods in Pakistan, as mentioned above. In April 2007, the United Nations Security Council held its first debate on climate change as a global security issue. In addition to the Darfur case mentioned above, substantive debates now focus on the role of climate change in increasing conflict in Africa. However, more rigorous analysis indicates that the direct links between climate/climate change and conflict are much weaker than generally assumed, or that they play an indirect role. Therefore, adaptation to climate change needs a multi-pronged approach, as long as this comes through a better understanding of the African climate and more research by Africans themselves in their region. Will Africa witness a new generation of future wars in its fight against the adversities and dangers of nature?

Future Center for Research and Advanced Studies