Tracing Vulnerabilities, Violence and Health Risks Induced by Climate Change

1
1278

By John S. M. Yormie, Jr. 

Introduction/Background

This literature has been developed over time and the debates have essentially shifted from the crux of whether or not climate change exists to how effects of climate change can be addressed. It has become more convincing as the earth gets hotter, increasingly causing melting of glaciers which have resulted to high sea rise, soil intrusion, land degradation, etc.

On the other hand, it has been identified that essential interplay of these naturally related occurrences induce conflict of varying natures. Some of these concerns are premised on the general consensus that variability and change exacerbate the scarcity of natural resources on the African continent, where majority of the people depend on land, water and the ocean for their livelihoods, according to the African Center for Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCRD).

In this paper, existential natures of climate change are discussed and viewed as nexus of conflict from a broader perspective, to narrowed scenarios at community levels. References are particularly placed on coastal communities in Liberia. The coastal environs along the nation’s capital are mainly spotlighted.

Serious health hazards, interpersonal violence and vulnerabilities as results of loss of lands and forced migration due to sea erosion are reviewed and analyzed with plausible assumptions and recommendations as policy options to ensure remedies.

Among the many concerns of the international system, placing climate change effects as one of top priority has become far-reaching.

Robin Mearns and Andrew Norton of the World Bank have variously argued that the most profound challenge facing the international community in the 21st century is climate change. They described it as much as a challenge for poverty reduction, growth and development as it is a global environmental issue (Mearns, R. and Norton, A.; 2008).

As far back in 2007, it has already been estimated by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that the world will warm between 1.8-4.2 degree Celsius within 100 years (IPCC; 2007). It was also assumed that conditions of droughts, extremes precipitation, heat waves and cyclone intensity, rising sea levels, increased land degradation and changing disease prevalence would have resulted (ibid).

Elementally, these can be argued as factors of conflict at different levels. It may affect regions, communities and neighborhoods differently, depending on the potential of the climate change inducing factor(s). For example, scarcity as a result of forced migration or resistance to share limited facilities can result to conflict in crowded coastal communities.

(Analysis) Issues, Plausible causes and remedial actions Vulnerabilities

Many factors position Liberia among many countries, especially Least Developing Countries (LCDs) vulnerable to impacts of climate change.

It has been realized that while Liberia has low carbon footprint, the impact and effects of climate change may have severe consequences in myriad spheres. Essentially, these spheres include sectors of agriculture, fisheries, forests, energy production related to availability of water resources, coastal areas and health.

It becomes more alarming considering the estimation that floods and sea erosion are among climate related hazards which are likely to worsen in Liberia with assumptions of significant impact on local communities’ livelihoods.

The coastal line of Liberia is susceptible to sea level rise. It has been revealed that by the year 2090, Liberia will experience a sea rise of 0.13m and 0.43 as predicted by the SRESB1 (INC, 3013).

The country coastal line itself lies on the Gulf of Guinea coastline, making it significantly exposed to Southern Atlantic annual sea storms surges that lead average tidal rises of over 2m during a brief period in spring. It has been observed as a major driver of severe coastal erosion along the Montserrado Coastlines ( West point Communities, New Kru Town, Buchanan and Cestos Cities), according to the (NAPA;2008).

The erosion lead to force migration or shorelines retreat. These scenarios have been noticed with varying distances with about 10 meters year in higher lifted zones and about 20 meters a year in the low land along the coastal communities like Bushrod Island in Monrovia.

These stretches cover over a host of densely populated communities in Monrovia, mostly occupied by poor people without adequate finances to individually employ coastal defense initiatives nor to acquire new decent lands for habitation and the conduct of livelihoods. Thus, they are compelled to live along these shores with high risks.

The effects have been far reaching and in the past forty years a number of climate change effects have occurred, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of Liberia.

It has been realized that factors responsible include shifting cultivation, unsustainable logging practices, unregulated coastal mining, decreasing river flows due to high evaporation, etc.

However, the National Adaption Plan that began in 2015 is the country road map that engenders evaluation of existing climate adaption and mitigation initiatives. It also includes an assessment of knowledge, capacity and implementation gaps including capacity and implementation needs. It provides a guideline for implementation of the (NAP) process in Liberia and the areas to work in short medium and long terms.

Initially, The Government of Liberia (GoL) has implemented a number of climate change related initiatives including NAP in 2008, International Communication in 2012, National Climate Change Policy and REDD+ in 2012.

The realization has been the existing lack of institutional and technical capacity on climate change adaption in Liberia that prevents the government and stakeholders to integrate fully the ACC into planning and budgeting processes and to implement adaptation strategies.

A key objective of the NAP is coastal management.

Violence

History is replete with accounts of violence in many forms. Across Africa and other parts of the world, enormous accounts point to conflict induced by climate change. Whether in the natures of communal civil violent conflicts in the north eastern area of Nigeria (Emeka E. Obioha, 2017) or the trace of the genocide in Darfur (sometime referred to as the world first conflict caused by climate change, after the conflict was sparked, at least impart, by decline in rainfall) ( David Biello, 2017).

American columnist Jeffrey Sachs at an event at Columbia University in 2007 mentioned that “Don’t doubt for a moment that places like Darfur are ecological disasters first and political disasters second.”

Henrik Urdal in similar fashion argues that, the direst predictions about the impact of global warming warn about greatly increased risks of violent conflict over increasingly scarce resources such as freshwater and arable land (Urdal, U.;2007).

Increasingly being described as a security problem, climate change has also been viewed as a factor responsible for violent conflict. A particular aspect of vulnerability of local places and social grounds ( Jon Barnett and W. NeilAdger, 2007).

A strand of this is interpersonal violence among community dwellers which have become common in clustered communities along coastal areas in Liberia.

Health Risks

Climate change may lead to increased vulnerability to malaria, cholera and diarrhea diseases as well as increased incidences of these diseases.

It has been realized that humans have significant interactions with their environments and extensive relations therefore exist. One core area is health. The world health organization defines environment as it relates to health as “all the physical, chemical and biological factors external to a person and all related behaviors (WHO; 2006).

It has been studied that long termed good health of populations depends on the continued stability and functioning of the biosphere’s ecological and physical systems, often referred to as life- support system as mentioned by A.J. McMichae in “Global Climate Change and Health: an Old Story Writ Large.”

Mirroring from the above, human activities along coastal areas where toilet facilities are extensively linked to water sources used for important daily uses signal serious health risks.

On another strand, malaria is very common in such areas considering the channel that both temperature and surface water have important influences on the insect vectors of vector-borne infectious disease. Of particular importance are, vector mosquito species which spread malaria and viral diseases such as dengue and yellow fever. (WHO, 2003).

Under these conditions it can be agreed that, substantial health hazards/risks permeate these coastal communities.

Major assumptions

The will be more effects of climate change in coastal communities unless measures are taken to ensure coastal defense while failure to promote awareness will cause endured exposure to causing climate change effects through activities like beach sand mining, dumping of harmful chemicals in sea and ocean bodies .

Interpersonal violence may increase if the trend of continuous land loss is not medicated. On the same basis, the likelihood of disease spreading among locals will remain prevalent in these clustered communities.

Conclusion and recommendations

Climate change has been identified as a major challenge facing the planet. Along with intractable conflict across Africa, the viewpoints mentioned it as being a trigger for conflict especially with causality factors of scarcity of limited resources as in arable lands, fresh waters bodies, etc.

Some pieces of evidence were traced to the conflict prone Darfur region and parts of northern Nigeria. In coastal regions feasible for economic activities like fishing and agriculture, these triggers are more apparent.

These susceptible to climate change include coastal communities in the Nation’s Capital Monrovia, (New Kru Town, Westpoint etc.) as well as other cities like Buchanan in Grand Bassa and Cestos in River Cess Counties. With prevalence of Malaria, constant fight on occupation of new lands, mishits building closed to high sea waves, vulnerabilities, health risks interpersonal violence appear common.

It has been observed that most awareness measures have not been at institutional levels including High Schools and Universities there by demanding the need to address such. The newly adopted National Adaption Plan must not be a mere shelve material but a tool that guides into full implementation to address climate change issues where as local actions are taken seriously in addressing this global menace being faced by Liberia and the entire comity of nations.

About the Author:
John S. M. Yormie, Jr. is the Coordinator/ Officer in Charge Gabriel L. Dennis Foreign Service Institute.

1 COMMENT

  1. John, I can’t concord with you more. As a matter of fact, beyond the mentioned communities that are sea erosion prone, the Atlantic Ocean has began attacking the country from other fronts such as PHP, Hotel Africa Communities, etc. all due mainly to illegal sand mining activities along the coastal belt of Liberia. Your effort, in my mind, is indeed a wake-up call to not only our Government, but our International Partners as well, to take concrete steps aimed at ameliorating or preventing this looming catastrophe on Liberia. Once again, thank you very much for your brilliant effort.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here