Human security

How global warming threatens human security in Africa – Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Global warming is contributing to more and prolonged heat waves, a tripling of droughts, a quadrupling of storms and a tenfold increase in flooding in Africa since the 1970s, exacerbating security threats on the continent.

More frequent and longer lasting heat waves

      • The last decade has been the hottest ever, part of a decades-long trend. Last year, the average temperature for Africa hovered around 1.2 ° C above the 1981-2010 average.
        • African countries within 15 degrees of the equator are expected to experience an increase in the frequency of heat waves. In Central Africa, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Republic of Congo and the coastal areas of northern Angola and DRC already experience an average of 8 to 10 heat waves per year. In East Africa, Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya, as well as the Atlantic coast of South Africa, are also experiencing an increasing frequency of heat waves.
        • A 0.5 ° C increase in temperature can lead to 150% increase in the number of heat waves that kill 100 or more people.

Other extreme weather events

        • According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), man-made global warming has caused a increase in extreme weather events—From heavy rainfall causing more severe floods and storms in equatorial countries and parts of East Africa — to increased drought in the Sahel and southern Africa.
        • The incidence of natural disasters in sub-Saharan Africa has grown at a faster rate than the rest of the world. Compared to the 1970s, the frequency of droughts has almost tripled, storms quadrupled and floods increased tenfold. As a result, 20 percent of the floods and more than a third of the droughts recorded worldwide over the past decade occurred in sub-Saharan Africa.

        • The only three mountains in Africa with glaciers, all in East Africa, will likely see “total deglaciation“by the 2040s – Mt. Kenya maybe a decade earlier.
        • With an increase of 2 ° C, southern Africa is expected to become 5 to 10 percent drier because the increase in the frequency of droughts and the number of heat waves leads to a reduction in the volume of the Zambezi basin. According to Professor François Engelbrecht, one of Africa’s leading climatologists, “Multi-year droughts are the main climate change risk facing South Africa in a changing climate.
        • With an increase of 3 ° C, the Western Sahel region is expected to experience the strongest drying out, with a significant increase in the maximum duration of dry spells. Central Africa would experience a decrease in the duration of wet spells and an increase in heavy rainfall.

Global warming is expected to amplify multiple security risks in Africa

Reduced food production

        • A temperature increase of 1 ° C is associated with decrease in agricultural production by 2.7 percentage points. The impact will be particularly severe in Africa where many households depend on weather-sensitive activities, such as rain-fed agriculture, animal husbandry and fishing, for their livelihoods.
        • Losses of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystems due to drought and unpredictable rainfall will affect the quality of soil and vegetation.
        • Increase in flooding incidents will continue to negatively affect agricultural livelihoods (for example, through loss of seeds, crop damage and livestock morbidity and mortality), leaving communities more vulnerable.
        • Under a warming of 2 ° C, the World Bank predicts a 10 percent drop in crop yields in sub-Saharan Africa by the 2050s.

Land pressure and displacement

        • Intensifying production on existing agricultural land to close “yield gaps” poses a threat to the environment due to the potential overexploitation of regional water resources and ecosystems. Likewise, the expansion of agriculture into “new” lands often threatens local and regional ecosystems.
        • Growing pressure on land can lead to displacement and escalation of existing tensions between communities.
        • Lake Chad, which is a lifeline for some 30 million people in Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon, has shrunk by more than 90% since the 1960s due to climate change, a growing population and unmanaged irrigation. Evaporation of the lake has only accelerated as it gets shallower. The the loss of livelihood has coincided with an increase in crime and migration to urban centers.
        • There is an estimate 18 million seasonal migrant workers in Africa, 80 percent of whom work in sectors such as agriculture, mining and fishing. The deterioration of climatic conditions has become seasonal migration in an ineffective strategy for many, however, and is one of the contributing factors to more permanent migration and displacement.

        • In the worst-case scenario of global warming, sub-Saharan Africa would see up to 86 million people moving within national borders. North Africa would represent the largest proportion of these climate migrants, with 19.3 million people move, which is equivalent to around 9 percent of its population, mainly due to increasing water scarcity.
        • Due to declining crop yields, reduced agricultural and labor productivity, and degraded human health, climate change is expected to have an aggravating negative impact on Africa’s economic well-being over time. time.


        • Of the 20 countries deemed most vulnerable to climate change according to the ND-GAIN Country Index, 17 are African. Among these African countries, nine are experiencing conflict. While most analysts agree that global warming does not cause conflict, many have pointed out that it acts as a “crisis amplifier and multiplier”Which can increase tensions around access to resources, food and ancestral lands. Where there are socio-political disparities, a weak rule of law and weak social cohesion, these tensions can lead to conflict.

Source: ND-GAIN Country Index

Priority actions needed

        • There are insufficient climate data collected in Africa. The generation of more complete and precise data will lead to better informed and better adapted approaches to adapt to the impacts of global warming.
        • Agriculture employs a majority of Africans and can absorb large numbers of relatively unskilled workers. The agricultural sector is therefore an essential link between climate change and security. In addition to adapting more drought-tolerant seed varieties and practices, it is vital to green the productivity of smallholder agriculture and strengthen property and access rights to land.
        • With intra-African migration set to continue to increase, efforts to create more and more secure migration opportunities are needed for those seeking alternative livelihoods.
        • To defuse the potential increases in inter-community conflicts linked to increasing land pressure caused by climate change, governments and intermediary reconciliation committees should proactively encourage dialogue between farming and pastoral communities to strengthen the mechanisms. to manage disagreements and mitigate the escalation of conflict. Governments will also need to review grazing and land rights– and adopt an impartial approach to enforcement.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.