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How Will Climate Change Destabilize the Horn of Africa?

1639 words (7 pages) Essay in Environmental Studies

08/02/20 Environmental Studies Reference this

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 Climate change is a growing problem in the modern world and will have a variety of negative effects. Each country and region are headed toward different problems ranging from lack of rainfall, more frequent and intense natural disasters, to decreased air quality. Even though these problems seem far off, the Horn of Africa, a region in northeast Africa including Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia, is already starting to feel the effects of climate change due to its location. In 2010-2011 a large drought led to widespread famine and thousands of deaths (AghaKouchak 2015). As climate change progresses and CO2 levels in the atmosphere increase these droughts will only become longer, more intense and more frequent. Additionally, we have passed the point where even if the whole planet became carbon neutral tomorrow, we would still feel some of the effects in the future (“What Would Happen To The Climate If We Stopped Emitting Greenhouse Gases Today?”              ). This means that the planet needs to address the problems that a rising global temperature will bring and work toward solving them. In the Horn of Africa, the major problem to be addressed is the additional destabilization to a region that is already in distress from frequent conflict (“Horn Of Africa”). Climate change will continue the destabilization of the Horn of Africa by destroying agricultural output and the economy resulting in famine, causing more dangerous and extreme weather like droughts and floods that further exacerbate the existing lack of food security, and making access to clean drinking water even more difficult.

 One of the major problems that the Horn of Africa will face due to climate change is a major decrease in agricultural production. The increased global temperature and decreased rainfall will result in decreased yields due to crops being in a poor environment for growth. For example, corn yields are projected to decrease by 18% and overall agriculture production by up to 30% in Africa (Zinyengere 2017). In addition, decreased rainfall will damage grazing land leaving pastoralists with little to feed their cattle (Hassan 2015). Besides decreased yields, climate change will likely cause problems with pests and disease. For example, the Coffee Berry Borer which damages coffee crops is already flourishing due to increased temperatures and will only grow stronger (Jaramillo et al., 2011). This presents a serious problem because coffee makes up 1.1% of Ethiopia’s GDP and 60% of its foreign income (Tran 2019). The decrease in agriculture will have two significant negative impacts on the Horn of Africa. First, the decreased yields will mean there is less to export and therefore less profits, which will sink the region further into poverty. Second, the decreased yields will not be able to sustain the population potentially leading to famine. Both these effects will make basic resources scarcer which historically has led to destabilization and conflict in countries all around the world when groups fight for the little resources left (Jensen, David et al. 2019). For this reason, the decreased yields will lead to destabilization in the Horn of Africa. Ultimately, decreased agricultural production due to climate change will negatively impact development and security in the Horn of Africa.

 Another major effect of climate change on the Horn of Africa is the increase in frequency and intensity of natural disasters like droughts and floods. As discussed before, a major drought from 2010-2011 caused widespread famine and killed thousands. Climate change is only going to cause more droughts that last longer and are even more extreme (AghaKouchak 2015).  No foreign response is currently in place to be able to prevent another large-scale famine from occurring and is likely impossible to stop if the drought lasts several years. This will wipe out even more of the population. In addition to a large death toll, drought is going to make crops impossible to grow making food scarce. The lack of food will spark off conflicts over the scarce supply leading to destabilization that negatively impacts development. Besides the obvious reason of famine, droughts will also lead eventually lead to refugees as people try to escape them. This means a shrinking population and as a result, a shrinking economy causing further destabilization. Additionally, the rest of the world will have to carry the burden of environmental refugees from the Horn of Africa when other countries will be dealing with their own climate change problems (Jackson 2019).  After the droughts finish wrecking the local economy and leave the region in famine, floods and heavy rains just exaggerate the problem. They destroy bridges, make roads impassable, and impact towns all around the region (“Horn Of Africa: Extensive Floods” 2007). Impassable roads mean that the food, water and medical aid needed after a drought and flood is much more difficult to supply. These factors will send the Horn of Africa into further distress and prevent further development.

 The Horn of Africa continues to be a difficult place to find water due to ongoing droughts that dry up wells. Many families must walk miles to find a freshwater source due to a lack of infrastructure and little running water available locally, and its scarcity and it is only going to get worse as climate change progresses (Loewenberg 2011). For example, in 2016 and 2017, one of the two rainy seasons that the agriculture industry relies on never came. It resulted in decreased crop yields, starving cattle and a water shortage that lead to a food crisis (Home 2019). Sadly, this is only the beginning. In addition to droughts, surface water, which is freshwater found in lakes and rivers is likely to drop by 25% by 2100. Because surface water is the primary source of freshwater in the Horn of Africa, it is going to become even more difficult to find water (de Wit and Stankiewicz 2006). Altogether, climate change is going to reduce the amount of available freshwater in the Horn of Africa. The lack of water is only going to exaggerate problems discussed before such as decreased crop yields and famine in addition to making it more difficult to find safe water to drink. As a result, a decreased access to freshwater from climate change is going to be yet another stress factor that will not be able to be addressed by the region and will contribute to the destabilization of the region.

 Climate change in the Horn of Africa has numerous negative implications. It is going to greatly reduce crop yields which will contribute to the Horn’s reoccurring famine problem and result in conflict. Climate change will also cause more natural disasters like droughts, which already caused a large famine, and floods, which have destroyed roads and bridges preventing foreign aid. Finally, freshwater is going to become increasingly difficult to find. All of this is going to further destabilize and create conflict in the Horn of Africa. The really dangerous part of the increased conflict is that it will cause more environmental destruction and pollution, adding to climate change (Solomon, Negasi, et al. 2018). This will likely start a dangerous positive feedback loop, which is a system where one variable of the system causes another which in turn reinforces the original variable in a never-ending cycle. In this case, the effects of climate change will add to existing conflicts in the region and the conflict will worsen climate change causing more conflict. In the end, climate change is going to severely destabilize the Horn of Africa. The Horn of Africa currently has a dark future; however, it can be helped with preparation and foreign aid.

Works Cited

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  • de Wit, Maarten, and Stankiewicz, Jacek. “Changes in Surface Water Supply Across Africa with Predicted Climate Change.” Science (New York, N.Y.), vol. 311, no. 5769, Mar. 2006, pp. 1917–21, doi:10.1126/science.1119929.
  • Hassan, Mao. Pastoralist Way of Life Under Threat:: Assessing the Vulnerability Risks Faced by Pastoralist Communities as Well as Their Potential to Adapt to Climate Change in the Horn of Africa. 2015.
  • Home, Climate. “Scientists Say East Africa Will Get Wetter, So Why Is It Drying Out?”. Climate Home News, 2019, https://www.climatechangenews.com/2017/07/13/scientists-say-east-africa-will-get-wetter-drying/.
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  • Jaramillo, Juliana, et al. “Some Like It Hot: The Influence and Implications of Climate Change on Coffee Berry Borer (Hypothenemus Hampei) and Coffee Production in East Africa.” PLoS One, vol. 6, no. 9, Public Library of Science, Sept. 2011, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0024528.
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  • Zinyengere, Nkulumo. Beyond Agricultural Impacts : Multiple Perspectives on Climate Change and Agriculture in Africa . Academic Press, 2017.
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