Climate change is currently posing an unprecedented challenge to the international system. Undoubtedly, the experience of many people across the world, especially in the hurricane-stricken countries of Africa and the United States can contest the devastation caused by these extreme weather patterns intensified by climate change. This year alone, countless families in the U.S. were evacuated from their homes to avoid the devastation caused by hurricanes Harvey, Jose, Irma and Maria. In the aftermath of these disasters, focus has shifted from the devastation to the causes, one of which is climate change’s exacerbation of these natural disasters.
The effects of climate change are perhaps even more evident in African nations in the Sahara desert region, however have not received the same media attention as the aforementioned disasters in the United States. Climate change in the Sub-Saharan Africa can be primarily attributed to the rise in desert encroachment, which has negatively impacted agriculture and aquaculture in the region.
Climate change is best understood as a ‘threat multiplier’, as it is caused by human activities and perpetuates existing pressures caused by social conflicts, economic inequalities, large scale migration, and competition for scarce resources.
Many farmers have been lamenting the negative impact of climate change, as it has limited their access to fertile lands, and in some cases have caused unprecedented floods- like in the case of the North Central Nigerian region of Benue State. In Benue State, hectares of farmlands were submerged as a result of flooding. The situation left many farmers in sorrow and anguish, given farming is the source of their livelihood, and because the majority of them are impoverished and subsistent farmers that are responsible for looking after large families. Furthermore, the few commercial farmers in the region experienced similar plights, as many of them took loans from commercial banks to expand the size of their farming and fund the previously experienced bumper harvest, only for the farms to be destroyed as a result of these floods. While the farmers in Benue State are certainly experiencing hard times as a result of climate change, the country as a whole is now preparing for the repercussions of this agricultural devastation- namely the anticipated rising cost of food. Food prices are expected to rise given the pivotal role Benue State farms have as the ‘food basket’ of Nigeria.
It is clear that climate change has crucial effects on food production in Nigeria. This consequently translates into far reaching implications on peace and security in the nation. For example, as a result of these Nigerian floods resulting in farmland destruction and food shortages, the people in this area are turning to other negative means to survive. This will naturally increase the ongoing tensions in many parts of the country. Growing food and natural resource competition is contributing to inequality, and subsequent instability and violent conflicts. There is unfortunately no adequate conflict management mechanism in place either. In fact, land disputes were the most prominent driving force in 27 out of the 30 civil conflicts occuring in Africa between 1990 and 2009.
Climate change will increase migration and mass exodus of people from one region to another, and from countries to countries, which will put a strain on the limited resources available in the places where people are migrating to. In addition to Africa, this can also be noticed in Syria, which has been at the forefront of migration concerns in recent times. It is now more sacrosanct than ever that in order to ensure the effects of climate change do not further affect nations worldwide and contribute to major humanitarian crises, the United Nations must seek to enforce the Paris Accord on climate change, and other multilateral obligations to ensure a uniform global commitment to confronting and solving the complex governance issue of climate change.