As the Sahel region experiences the harsh realities of climate change in real-time, the president of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, last week, made the case that the climate crisis in the region warrants a global response. The Sahel stretches from the West African coast to the Horn of Africa, and as a result, millions of people are at the center of this ongoing climate emergency. The Sahel region in recent years has seen extreme land degradation because of droughts and extreme temperatures. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, temperatures in the Sahel region are rising 1.5 times faster than the global average. Climate change has not only exacerbated security issues within the Sahel region, but has also created new ones in its wake. As a result, it is critical that we continue to understand it as a national, regional, and global security issue, as it has a hand in compromising peace among various populations and limiting the access to food and resources on the continent.
Understanding the nature of the climate crisis in the Sahel is critical to contextualizing the changes in the geopolitical landscape and the security issues shaping the region. For example, in Niger, access to arable land is dwindling and food insecurity is a constant threat. In Nigeria, cattle herders and farmers have clashed over access to land that is necessary for their respective jobs, as desertification pushes the two populations closer together, resulting in violence. And in Somalia, a widespread drought is displacing millions who can no longer make a living off the uncultivable land and their dying cattle. Their inability to make an income has made it difficult to pay “taxes” to militant group Al-Shabab. Many Somalis have sought refuge in Ethiopia at a rate that is four times the number it was in 2018.
In response to the appeal made by President Mahamadou Issoufou, the United Nation’s secretary-general, António Guterres, agreed with the president’s sentiments and recognized that despite contributing very little to climate change, it is the countries in the Sahel region and all over Africa that suffer some of the gravest consequences of the world’s changing climate. The African Development Bank’s response is that it will devote millions of dollars to promoting solar energy and to the environmentally sustainable growth of the region, according to Africa News.
Serious conversations about climate change are not happening only within international organizations and among global actors. The Africans who experience the realities of climate change every day have also mobilized around the continent to participate in climate protests that have taken place throughout the world. In Dakar, Nairobi, and Johannesburg, thousands took to the streets urging their governments to address the climate change phenomenon in a robust and substantive way. These protestors will surely hold their leaders to account because as one protester stated in an interview with France24, “Climate change is coming for us. And it does not matter who you are— whether you are rich or poor. This thing is real.” The protests that took place all over the continent demonstrate that Africans expect real solutions to be enacted to deal with the climate emergency.
There is little doubt that the planet’s rapidly changing climate is having detrimental effects all over the world, but they are disproportionately affecting disenfranchised black and brown populations. It will be critical moving forward that the international community recognize this fact and take swift action to combat climate change as the global security issue it is.
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