By David L. Brown
It may have seemed obvious to some of us for a long time that the combination of climate change and overpopulation is creating the background for ecological and human disaster. But for a long time the subject of overpopulation has been an unmentionable “third rail” in public discourse, and climate change has been the subject of a program of denial.
Now thanks to recent reports from the IPCC, the Stern Report, and a paper from the National Research Council climate change is being recognized as an irrefutable fact. And thus, its role in unfortunate human events is being noted. A news report today from the AFP news agency describes the substance of an op-ed piece that appeared in this weekend’s Washington Post by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon:
[Ban] said that the slaughter in Darfur was triggered by global climate change and that more such conflicts may be on the horizon, in an article published Saturday.”The Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis, arising at least in part from climate change,” Ban said in a Washington Post opinion column.
UN statistics showed that rainfall declined some 40 percent over the past two decades, he said, as a rise in Indian Ocean temperatures disrupted monsoons.
“This suggests that the drying of sub-Saharan Africa derives, to some degree, from man-made global warming,” the South Korean diplomat wrote.
“It is no accident that the violence in Darfur erupted during the drought,” Ban said in the Washington daily.
When Darfur’s land was rich, he said, black farmers welcomed Arab herders and shared their water, he said.
This kind of thing has been taking place across Africa for several decades, but past interpretations have painted the ecological disasters as isolated events. Now that climate change is being seen as a global effect, there is sure to be wider understanding of how serious it is. Not only Africa is at stake. Today in Australia farmers are being virtually wiped out by a drought so severe that rivers have run dry. In Alaska the permafrost is melting and threatening an end to the native Inuit way of life.
Everywhere you look there are signs of climate change, and we can expect to hear more about its effect on human affairs as our planet moves in unpredictable directions. Some experts fear that we are reaching “tipping points” which will lead to rapid and irreversible change that could cause massive famine, huge flows of climate refugees trying to escape to more stable places (such as America and Europe), and other catastrophic events.