By Michael Werz and Max Hoffman
21 April 2015
(Reuters) – The migrant crisis in the Mediterranean is symptomatic of deep dislocation in the Sahel region and sub-Saharan Africa — dislocation exacerbated by climate change.
Climate change is affecting such basic environmental conditions as rainfall patterns and temperatures and is contributing to more frequent natural disasters like floods and droughts. Over the long term, these changing conditions can undermine the rural livelihoods of farming, herding and fishing. The resulting rural dislocation is a factor in people’s decisions to migrate.
Migratory decisions are complex, of course, and nobody would argue that climate change is the only factor driving them. But climate change cannot be ignored. The second-order effects of climate change — undermined agriculture and competition for water and food resources — can contribute to instability and to higher numbers of migrants.
These are the conclusions of our regional report on Northwest Africa, published in 2012, which examined the root causes of tragedies like that of the drowning deaths of up to 700 migrants attempting to reach Europe by boat via the Mediterranean. We found that underlying climate and demographic trends can squeeze the margins of life at the family and community levels, contribute to decisions to migrate, heighten conflicts over basic resources and threaten state structures and regional stability. We also found that climate challenges, longstanding migratory routes and security concerns are linked to the Maghreb, the Sahel region and the Niger Delta in compelling ways
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