Some parts of the world are more vulnerable to a worldwide natural disturbance like global warming. Areas subject to drought and desertification are on the top of that list. In a place like Africa, where poverty, HIV, and internecine warfare have proven to be the perfect mix for prolonged misery and suffering, climate change may very well be the deciding factor in the failure or success of many African societies.
Yesterday the Standard Online reported that climate change may have a negative impact on Africa’s tourism and agricultural industries. According the article, this news was extracted from the most recent report issued by the IPCC: 10 to 15 percent of African wildlife species are expected to decline, arid and semi-arid lands are expected to increase by 5 to 8 percent, and crop net revenue is expected to fall by up to 90 percent by 2100.
These types of predictions about the future should be taken with a grain of salt, but it is true that we may already be seeing some of the results of climate change in the Darfur region of the Sudan. Some have argued that the expansion of arid lands has set nomadic herders at odds with sedentary farmers. Increased desertification coupled with the racially and religiously motivated genocidal tendencies of the Sudanese government have created an explosive and violent situation.
Michael Klare, author of the book Resource Wars, puts the issue of climate change and African conflict into a broader perspective:
I don’t think you can separate climate change from population growth, rising consumption patterns and globalization… It’s really one phenomenon… In a place like Africa, where the infrastructure and the government are weak, all these pressures are multiplying…and it’s creating conflict and schisms, which often arise along ethnic and religious lines, because that’s how communities are organized. But they’re really fighting over land or water or timber or diamonds.
Unfortunately, as the demand for rational water and soil management strategies reaches a fever pitch, policy makers around the world seemed to have lost sight of the ball, and in some cases dropped it altogether. Yet the need for technological and social innovations that allow for massive increases in water efficiency will only rise as our climate continues to change in unpredictable ways.