Monday, August 8, 2011

More Trouble Ahead for the Horn of Africa?

Duncan Green tentatively (with numerous qualifications) makes the climate connection:
The current drought conditions have been caused by successive seasons with very low rainfall. Over the past year, the eastern Horn of Africa has experienced two consecutive failed rainy seasons. According to surveys of local communities, this is part of a long-term shift. Borana communities in Ethiopia report that whereas droughts were recorded every six to eight years in the past, they now occur every one to two years... The conclusion? Attributing the current drought directly to climate change is impossible, but in the words of Sir John Beddington, the UK government's chief scientific adviser, in a talk at Oxfam last week, "worldwide, events like this have a higher probability of occurring as a result of climate change".
That last quote from Sir Beddington seems to be a common one from climate scientists. Tornadoes and heat waves could be whipping up outside, but they'll still say "I don't know about this stuff, but expect more of the same in the future!". I guess that's as far as science can go...

Green is also quick to point out that "drought" is not synonomous with "famine":
Remember that while the drought is caused by lack of rainfall, famine is man-made. As the Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen famously observed, famines do not occur in functioning democracies.

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