Monday, October 26, 2009

Fleeing drought in the Horn of Africa

Edmund Sanders in the Los Angeles Times: …Africa is already home to one-third of the 42 million people worldwide uprooted by ethnic slaughter, despots and war. But experts say climate change is quietly driving Africa's displacement crisis to new heights. … Norman Myers, an Oxford University professor and one of the first scholars to draw attention to the unfolding problem, estimated that by 2050 there will be more than 25 million refugees attributable to climate change, which will replace war and persecution as the leading cause of global displacement.

…Africa would be heaviest hit because so many people's livelihoods are dependent on farming and livestock. Many Africans use less water in a day than the average American uses to flush the toilet, so any further declines that might occur because of climate change could be life-threatening. "Climate change is going to set back development and food production in sub-Saharan Africa at least a decade and perhaps two or three," he said.

It's a reminder that behind the science, statistics and debate over global warming, climate change is already having a deep impact on Africa's poverty, security and culture. And a serious global discussion about climate refugees has barely begun, in part over concerns about who will pick up the tab, some experts say.

...Still, the international community has been slow to react, or in some cases even acknowledge the existence of climate refugees. That's partly because countries suffering from climate change today are usually poor, underdeveloped and politically marginalized. There is also a debate in the West about how to distinguish climate refugees from those fleeing disasters or poverty….

Refugee camp in Kiwanja (the Democratic Republic of the Congo), shot by Ahu2, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License

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