Essay on Climate Change Conflicts in Sub-Saharan Africa

Published: 2021-07-14
767 words
3 pages
7 min to read
Sewanee University of the South
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This article by foresight Africa viewpoint was written in January 2017 and provides insights about current and future conflicts related to climate change. It points out that rise in temperatures in Africa have corresponded with a tremendous increase in the probability of war. Currently, the countries located in sub-Saharan Africa is a result of water scarcity brought about by changes in rain patterns resulting from climate change. According to the article, an increase in temperature by 1 percent leads to a 4.5 percent increase in the war in the same year and subsequent increase by 0.9% the following year (Popovski, 2017). The article further forecasted that by 2030, there would be approximately 54% increase in armed conflict incidence in the sub-Saharan Africa (Popovski, 2017). The conflicts are derived from economic uncertainties caused by a rise in temperature such as reduction of agricultural yield. The countries heavily dependent on agriculture for their sustainability thus experiencing a decline in production makes them fight with other communities for scarce resources to access food.

Current wars in Somalia and Darfur is due to drought, flooding, natural disasters and starvation which destroys their available resources forcing them to invade their neighbors in search of the valuable resources (Popovski, 2017). People living in arid and semi-arid areas move to areas which are less arid inhabited by other individuals in search of better livelihood away from natural pressures. This human migration in search of water and pastures is the leading cause of conflicts and civil wars since the limited resource won't accommodate the large populations.

The governments in sub-Saharan Africa have developed mechanisms such as diverting water sources to conserve them. This, however, has brought negative impacts since people living down streams have resorted to demonstrations and small waves of violence because of perception that the government is weaponizing water to control their population. The water shortages are a breeding ground for war between them and the government.

Egypt recently threatened Ethiopia for a possible civil war through air strikes over damming the Nile River. The Ethiopian government plans to store Nile water behind the walls of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. The Egyptian government, on the other hand, has opposed the idea for fear of possible water shortages due to current climate change thus creating tension over the two countries (Popovski, 2017).

The class conflict theory is the sociological perspective behind these rising cases of wars resulting from climate change. The theory states that society will continuously be in a state of constant conflicts due to competition for limited resources. It further says that the individuals in the community would rather engage in wars instead of reaching for a consensus (Parsons, 2009). In this case, the wars experienced in Somalia between different groups due to scarce resources should have been averted if the two groups agree on the way forward through discussions rather than ethnic clashes.

The theory further states that the more powerful groups in the society will tend to use their power to exploit groups with less power (Parsons, 2009). The classic example is the way the governments use their authority to divert water sources with consulting people living in downstream areas. The effects of climate change such as rainfall reduction and temperature rise are likely to primarily hit the citizens especially those in upcountry areas. Instead of being assisted by their government, they are further exploited by being denied the limited water sources available which are diverted to benefit the powerful individuals.

According to the theory, the conflict groups tend to attain various amounts of both materialistic and non-materialistic resources. The strong group tends to accumulate more resources at the expense of the weaker group (Parsons, 2009). This is the cause of the current ethnic wars in countries around the horn of Africa such as Libya and Sudan where communities are frequently migrating due to adverse impacts of climate change leading to inter-community fights which have escalated recently.

Climate change affects the food security and availability of land and water resources which make affected people vulnerable due to its impacts and the possibility of being controlled by terrorist organizations. The class conflict theory the rich individuals uses social stratification to benefit themselves at the expense of the poor. This is the case in Somalia where al Shabaab group who are allied to al Qaeda uses their power to control water and land resources in the country thus causing huge problems for the citizens.


Parsons, T. (2009). Social classes and class conflict in the light of recent sociological theory. The American Economic Review, 39(3), 16-26.

Popovski, V. (2017). Foresight Africa viewpoint: Does climate change cause conflict? Brookings. Retrieved 24 July 2017, from

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