Does climate change and water scarcity have anything to do with terrorism and migration in West-Central Africa?

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The talk considers whether there is any connection between climate change/water shortage and terrorist movements in the Sahel
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  Does climate change and water scarcity have anything to do with terrorism and migration in West-Central Africa? Roger BlenchChief Research Officer, Kay Williamson Educational FoundationMcDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, CambridgeAdjunct Professor, University of New England, ArmidaleAcademic Visitor, Rajiv Gandhi University, Arunachal PradeshAcademic Visitor, MuseuEmilio Goeldi, Belem, Brazil Water Wars and MigrationFrontline ClubLondon, 11 th November, 2015  Science… It is something of a commonplace to link climate change and the rise of terrorism in West-Central Africa with climatic changeJohn Kerry was heard saying something like this at COP21 in Paris the other dayHowever, the connection between the two is a matter for science, i.e. A) is there actually any evidence for climate change in the Sahel?B) Is there any evidence that ‘terrorism’is on the rise and recent events are anything unusual? The answer to both these questions is no.If you allow policy to be made by people who don’t read the science (i.e. development professionals) then you get the usual half-baked ideas, driven by politics  How do we detect climate change? Climate change, and in particular drought is a long-term phenomenonIt can be measured by records over about a century in West Africa, but for a longer perspective we use palynology, i.e. the study of fossil pollenThis is derived from cores, taken in lakes or other regions where sediments are preserved and they tell us how the vegetation has changed over millenniaThis is a good proxy for climate change and what it clearly tells us is that the Sahel has always been subject to droughts, some far more severe and long-term than any in the 20 th centuryPeople certainly get desperate, but of course they evolve copingstrategiesHistorically there is probably some connection between slaving and these climatic variations; i.e. vulnerable people are more easily enslaved  Is the environment degrading? This does not mean the environment is not degrading; there is ample evidence for water shortages, a reduction in agricultural land and shortage of pasture for livestock as well as declining biodiversityHowever, this is entirely the consequence  of demographic change, the massive expansion of human population. Nigeria, for example, has gone from ca. 5 million before 1900 toat least 150 million today.Cities need water and urban populations are quite ruthless in denying it to rural areasExpanding agriculture is chewing up ever more land to feed the cities with unsustainable technologiesThe withdrawal of development agencies from agriculture and the taboo on tackling population growth will only make things worseClimate change is simply a convenient, abstract alibi to stop ustalking bluntly about these issuesAs we see from recent scandals such as Volkswagen. Governments couldn’t really care less even in the developed world  Are there any terrorists? No. Terrorists are simply people who haven’t won yet. Israelis were terrorists until Israel was created, then they weren’t.Terrorists are people who do stuff which is currently taboo to middle-class people, who have selective amnesia about their own pastIf you want to actually understand what is happening in West-Central Africa, historical sociology is in order, i.e. is BokoHaramor Ansarel Din anything new?And of course the answer is no. Fundamentalist/political Islam has been appearing in waves at least since the Jihad of UsmandanFodio(1804 onwards)Extreme violent theocratic movements are quite common in Northern Nigeria, especially after 1960 and clearly don’t reflect water resourcesBokoHaramis only different in that it has extensive external resources to draw on, probably getting money and weapons from AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Maghreb) AQIM in turn is funded through drug sales and the biggest marketis undoubtedly the City of LondonSo tough luck for Nigeria really, the bottom isn’t going to drop out of the cocaine market any time soon
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