This summer, temperatures across the Northern hemisphere, specifically in Algeria, California, Canada, Oman and Taiwan, have broken records, causing droughts, wildfires and crop failures. The European Drought Observatory (EDO) has described the drought as “an extensive and severe anomaly” across Europe. The record temperatures are causing crop failures and bankruptcy, affecting farmers in Scandinavia, Scotland, Ireland, the Baltics, the Netherlands and northern Germany. Moreover, the droughts have caused immense wildfires throughout the continent, from dozens of forest fires sweeping across Sweden to fast-moving wildfires causing deaths in Greece.
More than crop failures and wildfires, droughts can lead to conflict. In Nigeria, a conflict deadlier than that with Boko Haram is taking shape. Desertification and competition for resources have played a major role in pushing cattle farmers farther south in search of fertile grazing lands for their cows. As land becomes scarcer, competition for it becomes fiercer, leading to conflict. According to a new report from the International Crisis Group, the conflict is destabilizing the region and has already killed 1,300 people this year.
The consequences of climate change are further driving migration, as we wrote in last month’s Risk Radar. A new report by the UN outlines the risks of climate instability across Arab countries. The Arab region has 14 of the world’s 20 most water-stressed countries. The region is experiencing frequent and severe cycles of drought that have contributed to “famine and food insecurity, loss of livelihoods and life, and the displacement of millions”. A common example of this is Syria, where drought from 2006 to 2010 led to a mass migration from farmlands to urban centers.
Drought has been attributed in part to human interference in the climate system and the costs of climate change are immense. Nature scientists have estimated the costs of even missing the set climate goal of preventing temperatures from rising more than 1.5 ˚C, at $20 trillion.
As climate change intensifies, some areas will be more affected than others. This year’s Global Climate Risk Index found that less developed countries are generally more affected than industrialized countries. This is a red flag when it comes to climate change-related consequences such as conflict and migration in these countries, especially when combined with high population growth rates and weak governance and institutions.
RISKS MARKED ON THE RISK RADAR AS NUMBER 2:
Climate change / natural disasters, LARGE-SCALE MIGRATION, AFRICAN TERRORISM, TENSIONS THROUGHOUT THE MIDDLE EAST