Italian coastguard and Armed Forces of Malta personnel in protective clothing carry the body of a dead immigrant off the ship Bruno Gregoretti in Senglea, in Valletta’s Grand Harbour, 20 April 2015. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi / REUTERS

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.

Climate migration in northwest Africa. Nigeria, Niger, Algeria, and Morocco bear the brunt of this growing security challenge. Graphic: Center for American ProgressThese 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.

In northwest Africa, climate change will exacerbate difficulties in areas already facing numerous environmental and developmental challenges. Overall, up to 250 million people in Africa are projected to suffer from water and food insecurity in the 21st century. In the Sahel region, three-quarters of rain-fed arable land will be greatly affected by climate change. Droughts and flooding are already more frequent in Niger and northern Nigeria, along with temperature rises that jeopardize crucial rural activities.

The Niger River faces diminishing flows of roughly 10 percent, which numerous new dam projects will only worsen. If current water consumption trends continue, withdrawals from the Niger basin will increase sixfold by 2025, with profound implications for Nigeria. Lake Chad, which supports 25 million people, is drying up and is one-twentieth of its size in 1960. Northern Algeria, home to most of the country’s population and agriculture, may see rainfall reductions of 10 percent to 20 percent by 2025. Rainfall in Morocco is expected to decrease by 20 percent by the end of the century. […]

The Niger River faces diminishing flows of roughly 10 percent, which numerous new dam projects will only worsen. If current water consumption trends continue, withdrawals from the Niger basin will increase sixfold by 2025, with profound implications for Nigeria. Lake Chad, which supports 25 million people, is drying up and is one-twentieth of its size in 1960. Northern Algeria, home to most of the country’s population and agriculture, may see rainfall reductions of 10 percent to 20 percent by 2025. Rainfall in Morocco is expected to decrease by 20 percent by the end of the century. [more]

Cause behind African migrant flood has terrifying implications for the world

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