There is no doubt about it: climate change can displace populations and possibly lead to conflicts over scarcer land and water resources. The United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, during a virtual roundtable with Kenyan and Nigerian journalists on how the US could assist Nigeria in tackling its security challenges, had illustrated this claim with regard to insecurity in Nigeria.
According to him: “And there we’ve seen over time, as you know, the erosion of the (Lake Chad) basin because of climate change. That, in turn, can produce conflict over resources, new migratory patterns that put people in conflict, food insecurity, the easier spread of disease, all of which can produce an environment in which terrorism, criminality, other forms of violence are more likely.” The United Kingdom, through its Minister for Africa, James Duddridge, is also toeing this narrative.
However, to blame climate change alone for the Boko Haram jihadist terrorism and the wanton massacres, school abductions, kidnappings for ransom and armed assaults to “conquer” indigenous Nigerians and take over their lands by herdsmen is, to say the least, unfortunate. It is stretching the point to dangerous limits. The USA and UK are unwittingly playing into the of hands of Nigeria’s current leaders who are callously condoning these slaughters and ethnic expansionism.
Climate change is a global problem. Parts of the United States are ravaged by seasonal wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes and floods, which claim lives and property and displace many people. In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina caused over 1,800 deaths and $125 billion in damage. It was said to be at the time the costliest tropical cyclone on record.
Similarly, in 2017 Hurricane Harvey hit the US. According to Weather Service, “many structures, residences, and business in and near the Rockport and Fulton area were damaged or destroyed, as roofs were blown off and walls collapsed. Electricity and water services were lost. The city’s infrastructure was crippled…Tens of thousands of South Texas residents and businesses lost power for days, with the hardest hit areas likely losing power for several weeks.” These extreme weather conditions have been linked to climate change. According to the National Centre for Environmental Information: “Years with heavy seasonal snow and extreme snowstorms continue to occur with great frequency as the climate has changed.”
Moreover, earthquakes, landslides and tsunamis have hit different parts of Asia. Yet these climate-induced disasters have not sparked medieval era-like wars of conquest, forceful conversion of people to alien religions, ethnic subjugation and armed robbery of lands belonging to law-abiding communities.
To understand the insecurity in Nigeria, one has to look beyond climate change alone. Most of those attacking innocent people(Boko Haram, bandits and militants) are not doing it for survival. They are doing it for reasons that are yet to be fully understood.