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Africans are already facing climate change

Is Darfur the first climate-change conflict? In Kenya, a UN meeting begins Monday to set new fossil-fuel emissions targets.

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As delegates gather Monday in Kenya for a United Nations conference to set new targets to reduce fossil-fuel emissions after 2012, climate change is a present reality for many Africans.

In Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Chad, people are already seeing the repercussions – including war. The conflict between herders and farmers in Sudan's Darfur region, where farm and grazing lands are being lost to desert, may be a harbinger of the future conflicts.

"You have climate change and reduced rainfall and shrinking areas of arable land; and then you add population growth and you have the elements of an explosion," says Francis Kornegay, a senior analyst at the Center for Policy Studies in Johannesburg.

On Sunday, a new UN report predicted that by 2080, global warming could lead to a 5 percent fall in the production of food crops, such as sorghum in Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Zambia; maize in Ghana; millet in Sudan; and groundnuts in Gambia.

Between 25 percent and 40 percent of Africa's natural habitats could be lost by 2085, according to the report produced by the Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It also said that rising sea levels could destroy an estimated 30 percent of Africa's coastal infrastructure. Coastal settlements in the Gulf of Guinea, Senegal, Gambia, and Egypt could be flooded,

Ironically, Africa produces the smallest amount of the greenhouse gases blamed for climate change.

While it's risky to reduce any conflict to a single cause, a growing number of aid workers, government officials, and experts agree that climate change could certainly stretch the tense relations in many regions to the breaking point. Whenever there is less land available, and less water to make that land productive, then competition for that land can turn violent.


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