Guest essay by Eric Worrall
According to the Red Cross climate change is exacerbating conflicts – a claim which has been soundly debunked by a detailed study into the correlation between drought and conflict.
Climate change is exacerbating world conflicts, says Red Cross president
‘It’s obvious some of the violence we are observing … is directly linked to climate change,’ says Peter Maurer
Climate change is already exacerbating domestic and international conflicts, and governments must take steps to ensure it does not get worse, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross has said.
Peter Maurer told Guardian Australia it was already making an impact and humanitarian organisations were having to factor it into their work far earlier than they were expecting.
“In many parts of the world where we work it’s not a distant engagement,” he said.
“When I think about our engagement in sub-Saharan Africa, in Somalia, in other places of the world, I see that climate change has already had a massive impact on population movement, on fertility of land. It’s moving the border between pastoralist and agriculturalist.”
“It’s very obvious that some of the violence that we are observing … is directly linked to the impact of climate change and changing rainfall patterns.”
The study I mentioned which debunks this claim was a detailed look at whether drought makes conflict more likely.
Assessing the relative contribution of economic, political and environmental factors on past conflict and the displacement of people in East Africa
Erin Llwyd Owain & Mark Andrew Maslin
According to the UN Refugee Agency in 2016 there were over 20 million displaced people in Africa. There is considerable debate whether climate change will exacerbate this situation in the future by increasing conflict and thus displacement of people. To explore this climate-conflict-refugee nexus this study analyses whether climatic changes between 1963 and 2014 impacted the risk of conflict and displacement of people in East Africa. A new composite conflict database recording major episodes of political violence (MEPV) was compared with climatic, economic and political indicators using optimisation regression modelling. This study found that climate variations as recorded by the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) and the global temperature record did not significantly impact the level of regional conflict or the number of total displaced people (TDP). The major driving forces on the level of conflict were population growth, economic growth and the relative stability of the political regimes. Numbers of TDP seemed to be linked to population and economic growth. Within TDP, ‘refugees’ were recorded as people that were forced to cross borders between countries. In contrast to TDP and conflict, variations in refugee numbers were found to be significantly related to climatic variations as well as political stability, population and economic growth. This study suggests that climate variations played little or no part in the causation of conflict and displacement of people in East Africa over the last 50 years. Instead, we suggest rapid population growth, low or falling economic growth and political instability during the post-colonial transition were the more important controls. Nonetheless, during this period this study does shows that severe droughts were a contributing driver of refugees crossing international borders. This study demonstrates that within socially and geo-politically fragile systems, climate change may potentially exacerbate the situation particularly with regards to enforced migration.
If climate change isn’t to blame for conflict in poor countries, what is?
One intriguing possible explanation is that organisations like the Red Cross might be inadvertently creating conflict and instability by dropping vast amounts of aid money into poor countries, much of which ends up in the hands of tyrants and corrupt bureaucracies.
“For God’s Sake, Please Stop the Aid!”
The Kenyan economics expert James Shikwati, 35, says that aid to Africa does more harm than good. The avid proponent of globalization spoke with SPIEGEL about the disastrous effects of Western development policy in Africa, corrupt rulers, and the tendency to overstate the AIDS problem.
July 04, 2005 12:00 AM Print Feedback
SPIEGEL: Mr. Shikwati, the G8 summit at Gleneagles is about to beef up the development aid for Africa…
Shikwati: … for God’s sake, please just stop.
SPIEGEL: Stop? The industrialized nations of the West want to eliminate hunger and poverty.
Shikwati: Such intentions have been damaging our continent for the past 40 years. If the industrial nations really want to help the Africans, they should finally terminate this awful aid. The countries that have collected the most development aid are also the ones that are in the worst shape. Despite the billions that have poured in to Africa, the continent remains poor.
SPIEGEL: Do you have an explanation for this paradox?
Shikwati: Huge bureaucracies are financed (with the aid money), corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not to be independent. In addition, development aid weakens the local markets everywhere and dampens the spirit of entrepreneurship that we so desperately need. As absurd as it may sound: Development aid is one of the reasons for Africa’s problems. If the West were to cancel these payments, normal Africans wouldn’t even notice. Only the functionaries would be hard hit. Which is why they maintain that the world would stop turning without this development aid.
According to Shikwati, aid money promotes the very corruption and political instability which the study I quoted suggests leads to large scale conflict.
Much of the aid money provided by charities is stolen by tyrants and corrupt bureaucracies, who use that money to perpetuate their miserable rule far beyond what would have been possible without do-gooders inadvertently financing their repression.
But perhaps it is easier for aid organisations to blame climate change, than to take a long hard look in the mirror.