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Ambassador Rice at the UNSC: The Sahel and Climate Adaptation

SONY DSCAt a briefing for the United Nations Security Council, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice spoke at length about conflict, insecurity and vulnerability in the Sahel region, and the persistent drought overlaying it all. She also highlighted the U.S. role in assisting the region, stating:

The U.S. has committed more than $445 million in 2012 to humanitarian assistance for drought-affected and conflict-displaced communities in the Sahel. We intend these resources to alleviate the dire situation at hand, reduce chronic vulnerability, and ultimately to promote more inclusive growth.

These are, of course, worthy aims. But in order to truly succeed, plans for reducing chronic vulnerabilities in the Sahel will need significant “climate-proofing,” given the region’s worrying climate forecast.  As we have indicated previously:

There is strong evidence that climatic conditions in the Sahel have been steadily growing worse, particularly in regards to rainfall levels. According to at least six studies of this phenomenon, highlighted by UNEP in 2006 (see page 3), “the second half of the 20th century has witnessed a dramatic reduction in mean annual rainfall throughout the region.” A 2005 NOAA report attributed the low rainfall to changes in sea surface temperature (likely caused by a combination of natural variability and human-induced change), and both a NOAA study in 2006, and another by Shanahan et al in 2009, attributed drought in the West African Sahel to the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, which is responsive to sea surface temperature changes.

Absent significant and smart investments in climate adaptation measures, the Sahel may face an even more fragile future. Hopefully, the United States will be in a position to play a leadership role in helping to generate such resources.

The Sahel: Weather, Extremism and Weapons

The Economist published an interesting, if alarming, piece on Saturday exploring the explosive intersection of shifting weather patterns, political extremism, and the movement of heavy weapons in the Sahel region of Africa (for those who are unfamiliar, the Sahel constitutes the 5,400 km-wide arid and semi-arid plains south of the Sahara desert, and north of the more water-rich Sudanian Savannahs, stretching like a vast ribbon from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea). (more…)

Climate-Security: A Reality, Not a Narrative

This blog is also featured on the humanitarian news site, AlertNet

AlertNet posted an interesting piece yesterday titled “Climate Conversations – Climate-security as agent provocateur.” The author, Katie Harris of the London-based Overseas Development Institute, rightly calls for “nuance” in making the case for the potential security and conflict implications of climate change. The essence of the article is that though the “frame” or “narrative” of climate-security may have generated increased interest and action from the world’s policy-makers, it can be dangerous if done poorly. We couldn’t agree more. Also, as Harris states, “for those who want to identify the possible connections between a changing climate and the potential for increased violent conflict, nuance is key…” Indeed it is! However, despite these wise words of caution, the article omits a couple key points that may address some of the author’s concerns, including the significant evolution of climate and security scholarship in recent years, and how climate-security is actually defined in this space, specifically in relation to conflict.

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