Climate change and food insecurity multiplying risks in 32 countries

Andrew Pring
3 November 2014

Climate change and food insecurity are amplifying the risks of conflict and civil unrest in 32 countries, including the emerging markets of Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria and the Philippines, according to the seventh annual Climate Change and Environmental Risk Atlas (CCERA) released by global risk analytics company Maplecroft.

The Atlas, which provides comparable risk data for 198 countries across 26 separate issues, identifies Bangladesh as the country most at risk, followed by Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Nigeria, Chad, Haiti, Ethiopia, Philippines, Central African Republic and Eritrea.

The growth economies of Cambodia, India, Myanmar, Pakistan and Mozambique also feature in the ‘extreme risk’ category.

One of the unifying characteristics of these economies identified by the CCERA is that they depend heavily on agriculture, with 65 per cent of their combined working population employed in the sector, while 28 per cent of their overall economic output relies on agricultural revenues. Maplecroft states changing weather patterns are already impacting food production, poverty, migration and social stability – factors that significantly increase the risk of conflicts and instability in fragile and emerging states alike.

The United Nations estimate declines of up to 50 per cent for staples such as rice, wheat and maize in some locations over the next 35 years due to the impacts of climate change.

According to Maplecroft, the conflation and worsening of these risks in a country have the potential to destabilise regional security, hurt national economies and impact the operations and supply chains of business. Subsequent outcomes also include increased poverty and migration and reduced levels of education, which in turn can lead to disenfranchisement and drive support for radical groups.

Nigeria, ranked fourth most at risk in the Climate Change Vulnerability Index, is cited as a prime example of a country where this has occurred. Widespread drought and food insecurity helped create the socio-economic conditions that led to the emergence of Boko Haram and the violent insurgency in the North East of the country. Food insecurity and food price volatility have also been identified as triggers to the Arab spring – particularly in Egypt and the current Syrian conflict. With one in four people still undernourished in sub-Saharan Africa, climate change impacts make it even more difficult for governments across the region to improve food security and help reduce tensions.

“Unlike policy makers who often ignore or politicise the science in seeking short-term objectives, global business and the military now view climate change as an important risk management imperative,” said James Allan, head of environment at Maplecroft. “Identifying future flashpoints will help proactive organisations and governments make strategic decisions.”

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