In recent years there has been considerable discussion on how climate change, acting as a threat multiplier, could increase migration both within and across borders. The debate, at times contentious, largely centers on how climate change impacts the environmental and social factors that drive migration. This is a critical issue. However, there has been comparatively far less discussion of what we’ll call “climate immobility” – or how populations affected by the impacts of climate change, in addition to other destabilizing factors, may not have the means to move to a less vulnerable location. The dire situation in south-central Somalia, for example, where the insurgent group al-Shabab has restricted the flow of aid and the movement of people suffering from drought and famine, suggests that involuntarily immobile populations may become some of the most vulnerable to climate impacts.
If resiliency had a mascot it would probably be the camel. These even-toed ungulates are able to go long periods of time without water, can withstand wide temperature ranges and are generally drought-tolerant. A camel might typically be considered the perfect companion for a climate-uncertain world. For this reason, the camel has acted as a critical lifeline for many Somalis during the dry seasons. Perhaps this is what is most disturbing about the death of more than 50% of Somalia’s camels as a result of the recent drought. As posed by Sophia Jones in a Foreign Policy piece today, “If camels can’t survive, what can?”