This report was authored by Amali Tower and can be accessed at Climate Refugees: https://www.climate-refugees.org/reports/2017/9/18/shrinking-options-the-nexus-between-climate-change-displacement-and-security-in-the-lake-chad-basin
An estimated 38 million people from diverse ethnicities reside in the Lake Chad Basin. The populations that reside in and around the lake mostly subsist on farming, fishing and pastoral livelihoods. Of this population, about 17 million reside in the conflict affected areas of the Lake Chad Basin, with more than 2.4 million displaced, largely as a result of conflict which broke out in 2009 when the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, more commonly known as Boko Haram, launched an insurgency against the Nigerian government, which has since spilled over into Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
While conflict remains the main driver of displacement in the region, the mostly subsistence farming population have been deeply impacted and displaced by climate changes brought on by the lake diminishing over the past 50 years.
In its 5th Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found climate change could increase human displacement as well as indirectly increase the likelihood of conflict by exacerbating poverty and economic instability.
Climate Refugees found exactly that when it traveled to the Lake Chad Basin to speak to experts and displaced communities living around the shrinking Lake Chad.
Climate change, in combination with political, social, and development challenges has affected people’s lives, which Boko Haram has capitalized upon to feed its insurgency and to create a strategic base of operations and stronghold from which to increase its strength and numbers.
While conflict forced many out of the Lake Chad Basin, many were first displaced within the basin for reasons of climate change as they searched for sources of water and arable land. That displacement further destabilized populations already vulnerable from poverty, and brought them into further contact with Boko Haram, eventually forcing their flight out of the region completely.
The international community has begun to recognize that underdevelopment and climate change are at the root of the ongoing conflict, which has uprooted people, disrupted economies and thrown the region into chaos.
Climate change is a disruptor – it increases the instability of the region, negatively contributes to conflict stressors, including displacement, which left unchecked, threatens to overwhelm weak political, social and economic systems that can further fuel conflict and threaten new ones.
We must recognize that climate change drives human displacement and threatens human security. If the international community is to address the challenges inherent in that reality, then political adaptation, namely recognizing climate change in the security architecture as a threat to international peace and security, will be necessary.