Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Despite decades of militia atrocities, religious lunacy, terrorism, kidnapping of aid workers, attacking schools, kidnap and murder of educated people, and export of terror attacks against the West, Salon thinks the current food crisis in dangerous parts of Africa and Arabia is our fault because climate.
Climate change as genocide: But the international response is essentially a shrug of indifference
Not since World War II have more human beings been at risk of disease and starvation than at this very moment
MICHAEL T. KLARE, TOMDISPATCH.CO
Not since World War II have more human beings been at risk from disease and starvation than at this very moment. On March 10th, Stephen O’Brien, under secretary-general of the United Nations for humanitarian affairs, informed the Security Council that 20 million people in three African countries — Nigeria, Somalia, and South Sudan — as well as in Yemen were likely to die if not provided with emergency food and medical aid. “We are at a critical point in history,” he declared. “Already at the beginning of the year we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the U.N.” Without coordinated international action, he added, “people will simply starve to death [or] suffer and die from disease.”
Major famines have, of course, occurred before, but never in memory on such a scale in four places simultaneously. According to O’Brien, 7.3 million people are at risk in Yemen, 5.1 million in the Lake Chad area of northeastern Nigeria, 5 million in South Sudan, and 2.9 million in Somalia. In each of these countries, some lethal combination of war, persistent drought, and political instability is causing drastic cuts in essential food and water supplies. Of those 20 million people at risk of death, an estimated 1.4 million are young children.
Despite the potential severity of the crisis, U.N. officials remain confident that many of those at risk can be saved if sufficient food and medical assistance is provided in time and the warring parties allow humanitarian aid workers to reach those in the greatest need. “We have strategic, coordinated, and prioritized plans in every country,” O’Brien said. “With sufficient and timely financial support, humanitarians can still help to prevent the worst-case scenario.”
All in all, the cost of such an intervention is not great: an estimated $4.4 billion to implement that U.N. action plan and save most of those 20 million lives.
The international response? Essentially, a giant shrug of indifference.
First, though, let’s consider whether the famines of 2017 are even a valid indicator of what a climate-changed planet might look like. After all, severe famines accompanied by widespread starvation have occurred throughout human history. In addition, the brutal armed conflicts now underway in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen are at least in part responsible for the spreading famines. In all four countries, there are forces — Boko Haram in Nigeria, al-Shabaab in Somalia, assorted militias and the government in South Sudan, and Saudi-backed forces in Yemen — interfering with the delivery of aid supplies. Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that pervasive water scarcity and prolonged drought (expected consequences of global warming) are contributing significantly to the disastrous conditions in most of them. The likelihood that droughts this severe would be occurring simultaneously in the absence of climate change is vanishingly small.
The suggestion that global warming could be contributing to drought in those regions is nonsense. Nothing we are doing in terms of releasing anthropogenic CO2 is contributing to this nightmare.
During the Warm Holocene Optimum, the Arabian Peninsula and Africa experienced what is known as the African Humid Period. During this period, what is now the Sahara and the Arabian Peninsula was much wetter – the entire region was regularly drenched with reliable monsoon rains.
Any global warming we have created, any anthropogenic push towards Holocene Optimum conditions, is likely a forcing for increased rainfall in the countries identified by the Salon article.
The direct effect of anthropogenic CO2 on plant growth is also beneficial to arid regions.
The cause of the troubles in North Eastern Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen is religious lunacy and war. Wars kill people, smash infrastructure and discourage enterprise and effort. People in a war zone don’t build new water reservoirs or improve their farms – doing so just makes them a target for the next band of looters.
What we should do is stop trying to police the world, we should stop blundering in like the European colonialists of old. We are not responsible when other people mess up their lives.
Update (EW): h/t Clyde – Fixed a typo in the first sentence