Academic journal article Seton Hall Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations

Implications of Climate Change for Security in Sub-Saharan Africa: Increased Conflict and Fragementation

Academic journal article Seton Hall Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations

Implications of Climate Change for Security in Sub-Saharan Africa: Increased Conflict and Fragementation

Article excerpt


What are the implications of climate change for security in low-income countries? As global warming approaches and passes 1.5°C, climate change will reduce income, disrupt social relations, and fragment authority. I focus on Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) because its large agricultural sector is sensitive to climate change and will likely see effects earlier than in other regions.

The first section discusses climate change, particularly on the large agricultural sector in SSA. The next two sections analyze two channels by which climate change will affect SSA. First, a survey of quantitative analyses demonstrates a correlation between the level and growth of income and the outbreak of civil wars; climate change will likely decease income in the agricultural sector so the frequency of civil war outbreak will likely increase. Second, climate change will reduce the salience of then-current qualitative strategies of survival and increase the salience of new ones, which will likely increase social disruption and reduce government authority. The last sections discuss adaptation and conclude that a major effect of climate change will be fragmented authority and increased disorder in low-income areas.

Climate Change and Sub-Saharan Africa

The 2014 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) reported that: "The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen."1 AR5 considered four future scenarios, including a stringent mitigation scenario and other scenarios with very high emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). The baseline, in which no attempt is made to constrain GHG emissions, is between the highest and second highest of the four scenarios. The IPCC projects that surface temperatures will rise over this century in all these scenarios and that it is "very likely that heat waves will occur more often and last longer, and that extreme precipitation events will become more intense and frequent in many regions."2

The pace and extent of effects is likely to increase. According to the 2018 IPCC Special Report Global Warming of 1.5° C (SR5), global warming has increased almost 1°C since the period 1850-1900 and will likely reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 indicating that the world will experience half as much warming again in the coming 12 to 34 years as in the preceding 118.3

Climate change can harm lives and livelihoods, particularly for lowincome populations. AR5 assessed that:

Climate-related hazards exacerbate other stressors, often with negative outcomes for livelihoods, especially for people living in poverty (high confidence). Climate-related hazards affect poor people's lives directly through impacts on livelihoods, reductions in crop yields or the destruction of homes, and indirectly through, for example, increased food prices and food insecurity.4

AR5 projects that climate change will "reduce economic growth...further erode food security and prolong existing poverty traps and create new ones, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hotspots of hunger (medium confidence)" AR5 estimates with medium confidence but with high agreement that climate change will increase displacement of people.5

AR5 assessed that "Africa as a whole is one of the most vulnerable continents due to its high exposure and low adaptive capacity." Agriculture is sensitive to climate change, and the sector in SSA is large. Of the nine regional risks identified by AR5 as "medium or high for the present under current adaptation," five are directly linked with agriculture, including biome distribution, reduced crop productivity, adverse effects on livestock, disease, and undernutrition.6 According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), much of Africa's population is involved in small-scale agriculture, with agriculture directly employing more than half of the labor force (including 10 to 25 percent of urban households), and more than 80% of farms in SSA are smallholder farms. …

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