Possible link between climate change and conflicts confirmed
Professor Hsiang, economist at Princeton University, and his team have been studying the climatic phenomenon, ENSO (El Nino-Southern Oscillation), which is characterized by cool phases, called La Nina, alternating with hot, dry phases, nicknamed El Nino. By collecting data on the weather and conflicts between 1950 and 2004 in the area subject to ENSO disruption, the study shows that the risk of conflict doubled (from 3% to 6%) between La Nina phases and El Nino phases and 1/5th of the 240 conflicts in the area were linked to El Nino.
Though the author of the study points out that El Nino is not the only explanation of these conflicts, the fact remains that his study is consistent with findings by other experts.
Marshall Burke, an economist at UC Berkeley, conducted a study in 2009 which, although contested, concluded that the probability of armed conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa was 50% higher than normal during the particularly hot years.
In 2007, the UNEP released a report, “Climate change as a security risk,” that demonstrated that should climate change remain uncontrolled, it would exacerbate existing tensions and create new ones. This report sought to identify areas of instability in terms of risks linked to climate change (migration, deterioration of fresh water, decline in food production, and natural disasters) and certain aggravating factors (population density, political transitions, weak economic activity).
These studies confirm the Fondation’s philosophy that both the proper management and the equitable sharing of resources in those countries most vulnerable to climate change contribute to conflict prevention.
Conflicts over claiming new resources; the need to redefine sea and land borders; and the emergence of environmental migration that results from climate change (desertification, rising sea levels…) are likely to cause or amplify conflicts. Fragile states, unable to meet the changing needs of their population, are weakened, evidenced by the bewildering news from the Horn of Africa. We must therefore act quickly to prevent climate-related conflicts, especially, as pointed out by a 2008 European Commission report, “If we do nothing, the effects of climate change could cost 20% of the world GDP every year, whereas the estimated cost of concerted and effective action could be limited to an average of 1% of world GDP per year.”