THE EPICENTER OF CLIMATE CHANGE

by: Blaine Skrainka

July 13, 2011

The Horn of Africa on the continent’s east coast is experiencing the worst drought in more than 60 years.  Climate scientists believe that the extreme weather patterns are a direct result of human carbon emissions.  The drought has compounded the problems in an already unstable region resulting in an all out humanitarian crisis, especially in Somalia.

The affected areas include Somalia’s neighboring Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya, where two seasons without rain have literally turned the land to dust and destroyed livestock populations.  12 million people face famine, and 5 children die each day in refugee camps.

In the last year or so, there has been a media uproar over pirates off the Somali coast attacking western ships, but little attention has been given to the root causes of the violence.  The country basically has no central government.  Rather, it is loosely governed within the semi-autonomous states by local custom and religious law.  After decades suffering under ongoing civil wars over border disputes, the nation has virtually no infrastructure or ability to deal with national emergencies.  The severe drought, coupled with the inability to respond, has led to mass famine, a refugee crisis, and widespread death.

According to Daphne Wysham, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and a climate policy analyst, the extreme weather patterns can likely be attributed to the rise in CO2 levels in the atmosphere, and climate models predict this to continue.  She warns that some areas of the world, such as the Horn of Africa will be disproportionately affected by man made climate change.

As a the number two carbon emitter in the world, the United States has a responsibility to contribute to the relief of the Somali people.  Assistance is not only the right thing to do from a humanitarian perspective, it could also promote stability in the region which is vital for our national security.  One of the most complex issues remains how to build a long-term solution rather than continually putting a band-aid on the perpetual devastation.

Support UNICEF’s Child Survival Programs in Somalia

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