Climate Change and Conflict

Everyone is familiar with certain effects of climate change; we all know that the world is getting warmer, that extreme weather is becoming more frequent, and that sea levels are rising. These are all direct results from climate change and certainly pose a great threat to mankind, but the holistic understanding of climate change and its effects is not well known, especially by people in the west.

One aspect that I would like to focus on here is the role climate change plays in conflict. In Forecast Stephan Faris explains the consequences of climate change throughout the world. In the first chapter, Faris describes the conflict in Darfur:

The fighting in Darfur is usually described as racially motivated, pitting mounted Arabs against black rebels and civilians. But the distinction between “Arab” and “black African” in Darfur is defined more by lifestyle than by any physical difference: Arabs are generally herders, Africans typically farmers. The two groups are not racially distinct. Both are predominantly Muslim. The fault lines have their origins in another distinction, between settled farmers and nomadic herders fighting over failing lands.

Prior to reading this book, I thought the conflict in Darfur started because of religion, little did I know that it was due to forced migration. One would not think that climate change plays a significant role in conflict, but once a little information is known, it is very difficult not to see the connection. Climate change should not only be understood as rising temperatures, but also as forced migration, violence and rape. I will leave off with an excerpt of Machiavelli’s Discourses on Livy in which he explains two different types of war.

One is waged because of the ambitions of Princes or of a Republic that seek to extend their Empire, such as were the wars that Alexander the Great waged, and those that the Romans waged, and those which one power wages against another. While these wars are dangerous, they never drive all the inhabitants out of a province, but the obedience of the people is enough for the conqueror, and most of the time he leaves them to live with their laws, and always with their homes and possessions. The other kind of war is when an entire people with all their families are taken away from a place, necessitated either by famine or by war, and goes to seek a new seat in a new province, not in order to seek dominion over them as those others above, but to possess it absolutely; and to drive out or kill its old inhabitants. This kind of war is most cruel and most frightful.

-Jason

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