Climate change is a real and pressing issue affecting the Sahel and Maghreb regions of North and West Africa today. Weather pattern changes are causing desertification and prolonged drought in these regions. The Gulf of Guinea experienced an increase in water temperatures over recent decades, shifting rainclouds in the Sahel farther south. Consequently, between 1996 and 2006, Algeria lost 13,000 km2 of its land to desertification, while Nigeria lost 3,500 km2.
While a characteristic of the Sahel region is variable precipitation, in the second half of the 20th century, the region has experienced a dramatic decrease in average rainfall, as much as a 50% reduction. In addition, droughts occur now in two out of five years, which causes harvests to be highly uncertain.
Detrimental effects from climate change further exacerbate the growing strife and instability of the region, acting as a “threat multiplier.” These effects include increased water scarcity, lack of food security, and increased desertification. These may significantly increase instability in weak or failing states by overstretching governments’ capacities.
Over the next twenty to thirty years, these conditions will fuel the growing threat of Islamic radicalization in the Sahel and Maghreb areas of Africa. This will constitute one of the most important dangers posed to both American and global security.
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The mission of the Munich Security Conference is to “address the world’s most pressing security concerns”. These days, that means climate security: climate change is the ultimate threat multiplier, and anyone discussing food security, political instability, migration, or competition over resources should be aware of the climate change pressures that are so often at the root of security problems.
The European Green Deal has made the environment and climate change the focus of EU action. Indeed, climate change impacts are already increasing the pressure on states and societies; however, it is not yet clear how the EU can engage on climate security and environmental peacemaking. In this light, and in the run-up to the German EU Council Presidency, adelphi and its partners are organising a roundtable series on “Climate, environment, peace: Priorities for EU external action in the decade ahead”.
In January 2020, the German Federal Foreign Office launched Green Central Asia, a regional initiative on climate and security in Central Asia and Afghanistan. The aim of the initiative is to support a dialogue in the region on climate change and associated risks in order to foster regional integration between the six countries involved.
Climate change will shift key coordinates of foreign policy in the coming years and decades. Even now, climate policy is more than just environment policy; it has long since arrived at the centre of foreign policy. The German Foreign Office recently released a report on climate diplomacy recognizing the biggest challenges to security posed by climate change and highlighting fields of action for strengthening international climate diplomacy.