It has often been asserted that climate change has potential to cause conflicts. But the exact mechanism, through which climate change can cause conflicts, is not explained. And this is why some people end up being skeptical about the whole idea of climate change, and its potential to cause conflicts. So, how exactly can climate change cause conflicts? That is the question I will attempt to answer in today’s article – by exploring the connection between climate change and conflicts.
To understand how climate change can cause conflicts, we have to start by appreciating that climate change has caused significant changes in weather patterns. So you find places that used to receive a lot of rainfall are no longer receiving so much rain. You find that places that used to only have short dry spells have very long dry spells. Some previously habitable places have, for all purposes and intends, turned into deserts. That is how climate change plays out on the ground.
Further, to understand how climate change can cause conflicts, you have to appreciate the fact that there are many parts of the world where the people are still living off the land. It is easy to forget this fact, especially if you are living in the developed world. But you have to remember that while you are, say, applying for your double card from Merrick Bank, someone else in another part of the world is trying to figure out where he will graze his goats the next day. Such is the nature of the world. When such people (who live off the land) are faced with longer dry spells, they are inclined to move to other parts – where there may be more rain, shorter dry spells and so on. But remember, there are people already living in those ‘other’ parts. So you end up with conflicts between the newly-arrived people (who moved due to climate change), and the people who have always lived in those other parts – who are averse to the idea of welcoming new people to their territories.
In a nutshell, climate change is impoverishing people who previously used to enjoy reasonably decent standards of living. And that is how you end up with people who are willing to walk across deserts, and to cross oceans on rickety boats, to reach places where they believe they can access ‘greener pastures’. Due to climate change, we are seeing an upsurge in global terrorism, wars and all manner of political conflicts. People will, of course, give different interpretations, but if you dig deeper, you realize that the core issues being fought over are matters to do with resource allocation. And you realize that it is climate change that is causing resources to shrink. When resources shrink, people find themselves fighting over the little that is remaining on the table.