The new study investigating the causes of the Horn of Africa drought is yet another proof of the disproportionate impact of the climate crisis, which affects the world’s poorest nations the most despite their insignificant contribution to global emissions.
The almost 3-year-long and ongoing drought in the Horn of Africa, which has resulted in a catastrophic humanitarian crisis in Eastern nations including Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, was made at least 100 times more likely by climate change, a new study has found.
In a report published Thursday, the World Weather Attribution said the deadly combination of heatwaves and low rainfall was caused by human-induced global warming, primarily due to the strong increase in evaporation caused by higher temperatures.
Human-induced greenhouse gas emissions have so far warmed our planet by about 1.2C. To determine the role of global warming in this crisis, scientists from Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, the United States of America, the Netherlands, Germany, and the United Kingdom analysed rainfall patterns from January 2021 to December 2022 and looked at the traditional rainy seasons last year, from March to May and from October to December.
They found that the devastating combination of low precipitation and evaporation of water in soil and plants would not have resulted in a drought in a scenario where global temperature increase had remained below 1.2C. They also suggested that La Niña, a weather phenomenon associated with less rainfall that has persisted in the region for the past three years, was also partly responsible for the below-average rainfall in 2021 and 2022.
According to an estimation by the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), the severe Horn of Africa drought has left an estimated 13 million people facing hunger in the region, as three consecutive failed rainy seasons – the driest since 1981 – decimated food crops and caused high rates of livestock deaths, leading to food insecurity, economic turmoil, and widespread health issues.
In Somalia, one of the world’s poorest countries, around 43,000 people died in 2022 alone as a consequence of the ongoing drought, almost double those occurring in the first year of the 2017-2018 drought, according to estimates by the United Nations and the Somali government. Some 6.5 million Somali are exposed to high levels of food insecurity, forcing mothers to poison their children with detergent in the hope they can receive food in a medical centre.
Somalia contributes 0.03% to greenhouse gas emissions.
But as I just witnessed, Somalis are among the greatest victims of the chaos caused by the climate crisis.
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) April 12, 2023
During a two-day visit to Somalia earlier this month, UN Secretary-General António Guterres appealed to the international community to step up and dramatically increase funds to help the country overcome the crisis. The organisation is seeking US$2.6 billion in aid for the country, but only 15% has been raised so far.
“Let us come together to advance peace and security, sustainable development and human rights – and build a better future for all Somalis,” the UN chief said.
Thursday’s report is yet another proof of the disproportionate impact that greenhouse gases released by the world’s wealthiest nations have on parts of the world that are responsible for essentially no climate pollution such as the Horn of Africa.
Featured image: Sourav Sarker/UN
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