Thursday, November 23, 2006

Darfur: the first climate-change war?

The conflict in Darfur is complex, attributed to a variety of causes. A seminal cause, according to Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University's Earth Institute, is the drought of the early 1980s combined with population growth.

Tension between herders and farmers over the same land has long plagued Darfur. As the Earth warms, and evaporation from dry regions like the plains of east Africa increases, shrinking the arable land base, such tensions can only increase. This is a tale of the Earth in microcosm, growing demands on shrinking resources, despoiling the planet as we suck it dry. Richer countries are better at adapting so the effects are less dramatic, at least so far. Poor countries, on the other hand, may suffer disastrously from even small changes in climate.

Proffered solutions to the Darfur conflict focus on military action and politics, and both may be necessary to achieve a peace but, as Sachs points out, a solution will require dealing with the effects of climate change. If they aren't dealt with, any peace will be temporary.


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