Impact of Climate Change on Conflict and Emerging Infectious Diseases in Africa-Ayodotun Bobadoye
Bobadoye Ayodotun is the Chief Operating Officer of the Global Emerging Pathogens Treatment Consortium. He holds degrees from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria, Project Management College London and the Institute for Climate Change and Adaptation, University of Nairobi, Kenya. He has over 12 years research and teaching experience with African Technology and Policy Studies Network, Nairobi, Kenya and Forestry Research Institute, Nigeria. He is a scholar of the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars, Washington, DC and of the Africa Science Service Centre on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use.
Climate change and variability is emerging as one of the most serious global challenges. It is considered to be one of the most severe threats to sustainable development with severe impacts on the environment, human health, food security, economic activities, natural resource management, and physical infrastructure.6
IPCC7 defined climate change as any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or human activity. It is a measurable change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years. It may be a change in average weather conditions, or in the distribution of weather around the average conditions.
IPCC8 reported that the warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average temperature and ocean temperatures.
Climate change is also evident in widespread melting of the snow and ice, and rising global average sea levels. In addition to these relatively gradual changes, climate change also has impacts in the form of more weather-related disasters such as increased tsunamis, drought and floods. Existing literature on climate change attributes rise in global temperature to increase in emission of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydro-fluorocarbons and others) produced by human activities9.
Although the Earth’s atmosphere naturally contains greenhouse gases, it is believed that industrialization in the last millennium led to massive emission of greenhouse gases especially carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This increased emission of greenhouse gases is causing anthropogenic greenhouse effect that leads to climate change. Anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide account for about 63% of the greenhouse gas warming effects in the long-term and for 91% in the short-term.10
African countries will be seriously affected by climate change. This is due to limited capacity for disaster management, limited financial resources and weak institutional capacity in most African countries11.
Climate change and insecurity in Africa
The security implications of climate change are of increasing relevance to international peace and security. Continents such as Africa, where adaptation mechanisms are weak or uncoordinated, are especially vulnerable to insecurity related to water, food, energy, and natural disasters.
This will be a major challenge not only for African countries but also for international partners involved in climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts. Studies show that climatic events themselves are not the cause of conflict, but can be a trigger or accelerator of conflict. Climate change may thus influence conflict by increasing the frequency and intensity of climate hazards that change the operating environment and, with it, the opportunities and grievances that influence conflict. A good example is the farmers and herdsmen clashes in some West African countries (Nigeria, Niger and Chad).
Climate is a critical factor in the activities of herdsmen and farmers. The changing climatic condition that is increasing desertification and reducing access to water especially around the Chad basin is no doubt taking a toll on the survival of herdsmen and farmers business. The desert encroachment from the Sahara towards the Sahel region and other associated climatic conditions have continued to affect the livelihood of herdsmen as they push further south in search of available space, pitching them against farmers and host communities.
Impact of climate change on Emerging Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity
Three components are essential for most infectious diseases: an agent (or pathogen), a host (or vector) and a transmission environment. Some pathogens are carried by vectors or require intermediate hosts to complete their lifecycle. Appropriate climate and weather conditions are necessary for the survival, reproduction, distribution and transmission of disease pathogens, vectors, and hosts.
Therefore, changes in climate or weather conditions may impact infectious diseases by affecting the pathogens, vectors, hosts and their living environment. Studies have found that long-term climate warming tends to favour the geographic expansion of several infectious diseases and that extreme weather events may help create the opportunities for more clustered disease outbreaks or outbreaks at non-traditional places and time.
Overall, climate conditions constrain the geographic and seasonal distributions of infectious diseases, and weather affects the timing and intensity of disease outbreaks. Warming and unstable climate is playing an ever-increasing role in driving the global emergence, resurgence and redistribution of infectious diseases. Many of the most common infectious diseases, and particularly those transmitted by insects, are highly sensitive to climate variation. New and resurgent vector-borne communicable diseases, including dengue, malaria, Hantavirus and cholera, are evident widely. Other infectious diseases, such as salmonellosis, cholera and giardiasis, may show increased outbreaks due to elevated temperature and flooding.
Climate change will continue to affect the health risk for human infectious diseases, limiting some disease transmission but creating opportunities for others. Comprehensive and transdisciplinary approaches are required to reducing vulnerability and identify the most effective adaptation measures for human society.
6 Hulme M, Doherty R, Ngara T, New M, Lister D. African climate variability and change: 1900-2100. Climate Research. 2001; 17:145-168; Nicholson SE. A detailed look at the recent drought situation in the Greater Horn of Africa. Journal of Arid Environments. 2014; 103: 71-79.
7 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC. Climate change: Impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. Working Group II contribution to the IPCC 5th assessment report. 2014.
8 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Parry ML, Canziani OF, Palutikof JP, Van der Linden PJ, Hanson CE. (Eds). Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of the working group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental panel on Climate change, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-88010-7. 2007.
9 Hulme M. Op cit 6
10 IPCC. Op cit 7
11 Rockstrom J. Water resources management in smallholder farms in eastern and southern Africa, an overview. Physics and chemistry of the Earth part B- hydrology Ocean and Atmosphere. 2008; 25: 275-283.