David Ochieng Onyango
A research project submitted in partial fulfillment for the award of a Degree in Master of Arts in International Conflict Management at the Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies (IDIS), University of Nairobi.
Competition between pastoralists and agriculturalists over access and control of resources is key to so many conflicts in East Africa, including the crisis in Darfur. Violence between tribes and ethnic groups are the most visible dividing lines, but the stories of these conflicts cannot be told without including underlying environmental and demographic stresses
The climate plays a key role in human insecurity, and is expected to do as even more in Future as climate impacts manifests themselves. Climate change is increasingly been called a security problem, and there has been speculation that climate change may increase the risk of violent conflict. Climate change is expected to bring about major change in freshwater availability, the productive capacity of soils, and in patterns of human settlement due to the increase in their population. Climate change is also likely to undermine the capacity of states to provide the opportunities and services that help people to sustain their livelihoods. In certain circumstances, these direct and indirect impacts of climate change on human security may in turn increase the risk of violent conflict.
It is important to note that the prospect of human-induced climate change encourages drastic neomalthusian scenarios. A number of claims about the conflict-inducing effects of climate change have surfaced in the public debate in recent years. Climate change has so many potential consequences for the physical environment that we could expect a large number of possible paths to conflict. However, the causal chains suggested in the literature have so far rarely been substantiated with reliable evidence. Given the combined uncertainties of climate and conflict research, the gaps in our knowledge about the consequences of climate change for conflict and security appear daunting. This is why this study will aid to identify the relationship between climate change and conflict and contribute to the pool of knowledge on previous work that has been done on this area. This area has not achieved a lot in pointing out the correlation between climate change and conflict more so in Darfur. This is because many studies tend to argue that the conflict in Darfur is politically triggered and that is why this study seeks to contribute a different opinion. This study will try and attempt to provide a synthesized argument and analysis of the relationship of climate change and the Darfur Conflict and further identify the issues beneath the climate change debates that result to conflicts. This will aide better focus on the understanding of their correlation and focus on the underlying issue of climate change that cause conflicts.
This section will examine the debates of various scholars who argue around the subjects of climate change and conflicts with reference to the Darfur Conflict. It will cover various debates from published literature, internet sources, reports from the relevant agencies that deal with matters of environment and articles that focus on the variables mentioned above.
Climate change and conflicts
Darfur lies on the edge of a desert, in an area that suffers both from an overall paucity of resources and from a high degree of variability in the availability of resources. As a result of population growth, climate change, poor governance and conflict, it faces immense environmental challenges. Given the role of environmental degradation and the failure of environmental governance in undermining Darfur’s livelihoods, these issues must be addressed under the humanitarian programme and as the focal points of a subsequent longer-term programme of support to Darfur. Humanitarian and early recovery programming must be undertaken in a manner that builds capacity to respond to these challenges. In sum, the massive overarching environmental narrative of the Darfur crisis calls for a new approach to environmentally sensitive relief and recovery programming and peace-building.
Climate change is a long-term shift in weather conditions identified by changes in temperature, precipitation, winds, and other indicators. Climate change can involve both changes in average conditions and changes in variability, including, for example, extreme events. As consensus on the existence of global climate change has grown over the past several decades, debate has shifted to the consequences of climate change such as conflicts. The collective work of social scientists offers a varied picture of the ways in which climate change may impact humans. Although difficult to unpack, the implications climate change may have for human rights and conflict are particularly important to understand given the gravity of those issues.
Most climate scientists agree the main cause of the current climate change trend is human expansion of the greenhouse effect warming that result when the atmosphere traps heat radiating from Earth toward space. Certain gases in the atmosphere block heat from escaping. Long-lived gases, remaining semi-permanently in the atmosphere, which do not respond physically or chemically to changes in temperature are described as forcing climate change. On Earth, human activities are changing the natural greenhouse. Over the last century the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil has increased the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide. This happens because the coal or oil burning process combines carbon with oxygen in the air to make. To a lesser extent, the clearing of land for agriculture, industry, and other human activities have increased concentrations of greenhouse gases.
Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, these human influences on the climate system have increased substantially. In addition to other environmental impacts, these activities change the land surface and emit various substances to the atmosphere. These in turn can influence both the amount of incoming energy and the amount of outgoing energy and can have both warming and cooling effects on the climate. The dominant product of fossil fuel combustion is carbon dioxide, which is a greenhouse gas. The overall effect of human activities since the Industrial Revolution has been a climate change effect, driven primarily by emissions of carbon dioxide and enhanced by emissions of other greenhouse gases.
The build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has led to an enhancement of the natural greenhouse effect. It is this human-induced enhancement of the greenhouse effect that is of concern because ongoing emissions of greenhouse gases have the potential to warm the planet to levels that have never been experienced in the history of human civilization. Such climate change could have far-reaching and/or unpredictable environmental, social, and economic consequences.
Climate change is increasingly been called a security problem, and there has been speculation that climate change may increase the risk of violent conflict. Climate change is also likely to undermine the capacity of states to provide the opportunities and services that help people to sustain their livelihoods, and this again might result to conflicts that result over the access and control of these opportunities and services that sustain the human existence. In certain circumstances these direct and indirect impacts of climate change on human security may in turn increase the risk of violent conflict.
The prospect of human-induced climate change encourages drastic neomalthusian scenarios. A number of claims about the conflict-inducing effects of climate change have surfaced in the public debate in recent years. Climate change has so many potential consequences for the physical environment that we could expect a large number of possible paths to conflict. However, the causal chains suggested in the literature have so far rarely been substantiated with reliable evidence. Given the combined uncertainties of climate and conflict research, the gaps in our knowledge about the consequences of climate change for conflict and security appear daunting.
Dry climate/hot leads to scarcity in pastoral lands, and water being a basic commodity becomes scares as well. It becomes a recipe for conflict when settlers in a particular locality as forced to move from a much drier area to a less familiar area, where there are chances of meeting another society moving to the same area over the same predicaments. This all means greater competition for land and scares resources. Climate change is considered a security issue as much as it is a human right issue or environmental issue.
One of the gravest effects of climate change may be those on human migration. Extreme weather events and environmental crises have always existed, but the overwhelming scientific thinking is that the man-made climate change will exacerbate and intensify these events.
Understanding all the causes of the Darfur crisis may need a more nuanced approach. Julie Flint, who with Alex de Waal, wrote the book “Darfur: The Short History of a Long War,” argue that there is some truth in this the link between conflict and the demand for natural resources. They note that the great drought and famine of 1984-85 in Darfur led to localised conflicts that generally pitted pastoralists against farmers in a struggle for diminishing resources, culminating in the Fur-Arab war of 1987-89.
Climate change may be one of the causes of the Darfur crisis, but to consider it the single root cause would obscure other important factors and could hamper the search for solutions, climate and conflict analysts say. Darfur provides a case study of how existing marginal situations can be exacerbated beyond the tipping point by climate-related factors. It also shows how lack of essential resources threatens not only individuals and their communities but also the region and the international community at large
The UNEP report also listed the erosion of natural resources caused by climate change as among the root causes of social strife and conflict acknowledges that many elements contributing to the conflict in Sudan have little or no link to the environment or natural resources. These include political, religious, ethnic, tribal and clan divisions, economic influences, land tenure deficiencies and historical feuds. In addition, where 12environment and natural resource management issues are important, they are generally contributing factors only not the sole cause for tension.
Inequitable distribution of resources has brought about conflicts in Africa over the competition and access of these scarce resources. It is the scarcity and/or abundance of these resources that has led to conflicts in Africa. Competition over the scarce resources in the overcrowded regions has produced volatile social situations for group conflicts. Population growth has also exacerbated the existing tension more so in Africa.