Climate change and the growing risk of conflicts

zmiany klimatyczne

In recent years, we have witnessed an increasing number of violent events around the world – heat waves, droughts, torrential rains, floods, tornadoes, etc. Their causes are climate change. An estimated 55 million people are affected by droughts each year, and more than 2 billion people experienced floods between 1998 and 2017. For more than a dozen days, the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy has been struggling with a second wave of flooding that has left 14 people dead and more than 36,000 needing to be displaced.

These extreme weather events have serious consequences for the environment, but also, to a very large extent, for societies. In addition to the obvious material losses, droughts and floods also affect social instability, while increasing the risk of conflict.

Struggle over natural resources and migration as factors in escalating conflicts

Violent droughts and floods can lead to increased social and political tensions, especially in regions where access to water resources is limited. Fighting over drinking water and agricultural soil can lead to disputes between communities, ethnic groups or even states.

In addition, extreme climate events have serious consequences for the economies of affected countries. The destruction of infrastructure, the loss of agricultural crops, the loss of the tourism sector and the cost of reconstruction require significant financial resources. All of this can lead to worsening poverty, rising unemployment and social inequality, which in turn increases the risk of social discontent and conflict. It is undeniable that the climate change we cause ourselves is dangerous on many levels, including the less obvious ones.

Faced with the devastating effects of natural disasters, people are forced to look for new places to live and livelihoods, leading to migration. And this creates tensions between immigrant groups and local communities that are struggling with their own difficulties. Competition for limited food and water resources can increase tensions.

Examples of conflicts caused by climate change

Conflict in Darfur

Darfur, a region in western Sudan, since 2003. is the site of a bloody conflict that has entailed massive loss of life and destabilization of society. While analysis of the problem often focuses on ethnic, political and economic factors, the significant influence of environmental elements is increasingly being pointed to as exacerbating the situation.

Climate change and environmental degradation have not been the main motivation for the rise of rebel groups in Darfur, but they have certainly added to tensions. In the 1960s, 1970s. and the first half of the 1980s. The amount of rain in Darfur has steadily decreased. This trend culminated in the 1984/85 drought and famine. Lack of sufficient water and land, combined with agricultural expansion and increasing migration from northern Sudan and neighboring Chad, has led to overuse of natural resources, deforestation and erosion, further exacerbating local conflicts over resources.

As a result of loss of livelihood and widespread poverty, residents were forced to engage in illegal and violent activities. The lack of economic prospects has fostered the recruitment of rebels to fight against the government, fueling a spiral of violence.

Migration due to difficulties in accessing water and land has contributed to the weakening of traditional resource allocation and conflict mitigation mechanisms. Ethnic differences, which had previously been resolved peacefully, have become the basis for escalating violence.

Conflict in China

Eastern China in the winter of 2010/11 experienced a severe lack of precipitation and an unusual phenomenon – sandstorms. The situation was so worrisome that Wen Jiabao’s government decided to take unconventional measures, including the use of rockets, in hopes of bringing rain. However, this desperate attempt to solve the problem not only caused controversy within China itself, but also had long-lasting consequences felt outside the country. Critics have argued that such atmospheric intrusions could have hard-to-predict side effects on the environment and public health. In addition, there were concerns that Chinese actions could disrupt natural climate processes and affect the global ecological balance.

Conflicts in Kenya

Northern Kenya is a region where climate change is having drastic effects on local communities. A large part of the population there subsists on traditional nomadic cattle breeding. However, climate change, manifested by prolonged periods of drought and precipitation instability, is causing serious problems. This results in increased competition for limited natural resources, which are becoming even more scarce. Disputes over access to pasture and water are forcing people to turn to armed force to protect their livelihoods. As a result, conflicts in northern Kenya, due in part to climate change, could have dire consequences for local communities.

Droughts and floods have a significant impact on national economies, especially in countries that depend on agriculture. The lack of sufficient resources leads not only to a shortage of potable water for the population, but also to a reduction in its availability for agriculture. This, in turn, causes a decline in agricultural production and increases food prices, negatively affects living conditions and leads to an increase in poverty.

Floods, in turn, bring with them damage to infrastructure, including roads, bridges, housing and factories. This results in huge material and economic losses. People are losing their livelihoods, and the destroyed infrastructure is hampering the economic development of the affected areas. As a result, unemployment is rising and poverty is becoming more widespread, affecting the country’s political stability and power.

Economic regression, increased poverty and unavailability of basic resources are creating social tensions and generating discontent against those in power. The population accuses the authorities of failing to provide adequate countermeasures and protection against natural disasters. Political tensions can lead to destabilizing governments, protests and civil unrest.

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