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Somalia: Another Innocent Victim

Updated: Dec 21, 2022

by Mohamed Adam

Image credit to Erich Ogoso/UNOCHA


According to NASA "Climate change is a long-term change in the average weather patterns that have come to define Earth’s local, regional, and global climates." The climate change we now know, is primarily driven by human activities, mostly as a result of burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas, which emit greenhouse gasses that trap heat or longwave radiation in the atmosphere. Despite having wide-reaching impacts, mass-media often still simplifies climate change, or ‘global warming’ to warmer temperatures, but its consequences include, among other things, severe droughts, floods, and water shortages.


But if our world is changing, who is to blame?


In 2014, the European Union and five industrialized countries in Europe, Asia, and North America were the top carbon dioxide (CO2) emitters, producing 70% of the global CO2 emissions. China, the topmost producer, released 30%, whilst the United States, the European Union, India, the Russian Federation, and Japan emitted 15%, 9%, 7%, 5%, and 4%, respectively. In addition, most global greenhouse gas emissions come from four sectors: electricity and heat production; agriculture, forestry, and other land uses; industry; and transportation. Most of these sectors are substantially undeveloped in Africa and have yet to see extensive growth or investment, which makes developed countries the primary source of global greenhouse gas emissions.


The African continent represents a comparatively minor share of the global total greenhouse gas emissions. It accounts for the smallest share per continent, at just 3.8%. However, the continent is struggling with extreme temperatures and heat waves, precipitation changes, floods, and sea level rise affecting water resources, agricultural production, water scarcity, and droughts. The latter are frequent in Somalia and have repeatedly devastated the country over the past years.


Somalia is located in the Horn of Africa, bordering the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, and while the climate is predominantly dry to semi-arid, the inter-annual variations of rainfall in Somalia are among the highest of the mainland African countries. The country is also excessively dependent on the supply of ecosystem services and its natural resource base, which makes it extremely vulnerable to climate change.


The country also experiences social vulnerabilities: Somalia is among the poorest countries in the world, with around 69% of the population living on less than US$1.90 a day. The majority of the population live in rural areas, which means that livestock is a key source of food and income. Around 70% of the people rely on livestock for their livelihoods. In addition, the agricultural sector (including agriculture and pastoralism, hunting, forestry, and fishing) employed more than 80% of the population in 2020, which makes Somalis extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change due to their heavy reliance on the land.


Ten major droughts took place from the end of World War I to the 1970s alone. Before the end of the 20th century, Somalia had again experienced two famines and three prolonged droughts. Furthermore, after undergoing a massive famine between 2011 and 2012, Somalia narrowly survived another famine in 2016–2017. Unfortunately, the country is again experiencing a severe drought in 2022 that will affect more than 6.8 million people. At the current trend, the country is experiencing famine and drought every 3–4 years. The famine in 1992 was particularly disastrous: almost 300,000 people died - half of whom were children under five- and one in every five were displaced. The horror however unfortunately keeps repeating itself: the 2010–2011 famine claimed more than 250,000 lives, of which half were children.


Even though Somalia was already vulnerable in terms of climate, civilization, geography, economic, and political issues, it is by now fair to say that the irresponsible actions of the world's largest economies and major polluters are to blame for much of the ongoing suffering in Somalia and other African countries. While, of course, there are always local issues that exacerbate the impacts of climate change, such as, in the case of Somalia, tree-cutting practices and charcoal production, which is known to result in a significant decline in food security, the strongest reproach must still be against the countries that are the largest CO2-emitters. Although Somalia contributes less than 0.003% of the emissions globally, the country is ranked as the second-most climate-vulnerable country in the world.


While the mass-media continues to paint climate change as just ‘warmer temperatures’, impoverished countries like Somalia suffer the other side of the coin: severe droughts, floods, and water shortages. When talking about climate change, people often refer to the future and future generations. But it is already a reality that many people live with. People are dying because of climate change. This is happening now - not in the future. This is the result of the irresponsible behaviors of a few, and now, underprivileged nations, who have barely contributed to this disaster, are paying the price of Mother Nature’s anger.


The establishment of a Loss and Damage Fund at this year’s 27th session of the Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27) is an attempt to rectify such injustices. While it undeniably is a historical step towards climate justice, especially as, for the first time, there was a partial admission to the damage that colonial and industrial powers caused nations in the Global South, the question remains: Will these countries keep their word? Or will the Loss and Damage Fund follow the same path as as the other many unkept promises made at previous COPs?



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