In an editorial published this Saturday in The Washington Post, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon laid the blame for the carnage and anarchy that have been roiling Darfur for the past few years squarely at the feet of climate change. Stating that the "Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis, arising at least in part from climate change," he warned that more such conflicts may be looming on the horizon.
What transpired, of course, led to the grisly wave of bloodshed and destruction that has ravaged Sudan: black farmers that had once peacefully co-existed with Arab farmers, sharing both land and water, were now forced to close off their farms to prevent overgrazing. Not surprisingly, this triggered a severe shortage in the supply of food and water, sparking the deadly conflict.
"Two decades ago, the rains in southern Sudan began to fail. According to U.N. statistics, average precipitation has declined some 40 percent since the early 1980s. Scientists at first considered this to be an unfortunate quirk of nature," said Ban. "But subsequent investigation found that it coincided with a rise in temperatures of the Indian Ocean, disrupting seasonal monsoons. This suggests that the drying of sub-Saharan Africa derives, to some degree, from man-made global warming."
Although a UN peace-keeping force could help stem the violence, he notes that it wouldn't resolve the root cause of the problem, namely the lack of land. So what to do? As the South Korean diplomat later elaborates, he believes that sustained economic development is the key to any viable recovery effort:
"Ultimately, however, any real solution to Darfur's troubles involves sustained economic development. Precisely what shape that might take is unclear. But we must begin thinking about it. New technologies can help, such as genetically modified grains that thrive in arid soils or new irrigation and water storage techniques. There must be money for new roads and communications infrastructure, not to mention health, education, sanitation and social reconstruction programs."
He concludes by saying that other African countries that share Darfur's "food and water insecurity" problem, such as Somalia, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso, might benefit from a similar solution.