“The impact of climate change is going to be most likely so harmful that it would threaten governments,” said 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner and chairman of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC
) Rajendra K. Pachauri in an interview with Reuters
earlier this week. Pachauri focused his remarks on Africa, whose one billion people are among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and whose governments frequently lack the capacity to adapt to the impending changes.
“If the situation in Africa is a scar on the conscience of the world, then if the world has a conscience it has to remove that scar,” Pachauri said. While a number of high-profile conflicts in Africa’s recent history have revolved around natural resources, Pachauri warned that environmental change could soon eclipse the so-called “resource curse” as a driver of conflict, citing research predicting that by 2020, climate change could leave between 75 million and 250 million additional Africans without access to water and could reduce the yields of farmers who depend on rain-fed agriculture by half. “Climate change has the potential to be a problem for the maintenance of peace,” he said.
The rapidly worsening global food crisis has hit certain parts of Africa particularly hard—instigating riots in Egypt and Burkina Faso, for example—and with food and water becoming increasingly precious commodities, dire outcomes seem increasingly likely. “The answer,” Pachauri said, “is for developed nations to realize that we are living on one planet. We are all inhabitants of spaceship earth.” But, he conceded, “we are nowhere close yet.”