By Sophie Yeo in Cancun
Climate change is exacerbating the civil war in South Sudan, according to the country’s environment minister, Deng Deng Hoc Yai.
He warned that the environmental damage caused by global warming was increasing the suffering that war was already causing in the strife-ridden country, worsening food shortages and building pressure on urban areas.
While most credit the current conflict to ethnic tensions and a dispute between the President and his deputy, the situation in South Sudan adds credence to scientists’ theories that climate change can act as a “threat multiplier”, aggravating the effects of pre-existing violence and triggering further tension, creating security threats in vulnerable countries.
But war can also act as an opportunity for countries to rebuild in a way that will help them to deal with the impacts of climate change, said Haddijatou Jallow, who leads the Environmental Protection Agency in Sierra Leone, another country to have recently experienced a civil war.
She told RTCC that rebuilding the country almost from scratch after the destruction caused by eleven years of violence had allowed it to embed climate into its constitution, including the 2008 Environment Protection Agency Act.
“What war does, it reduces you to zero, so you have to go back to the drawing board and literally start all over again,” she said.
“Starting all over again, that is an opportunity again to build adaptive measures, mitigation measures, and ensure that you put in mechanisms that will lessen the impacts of climate change.”
She added that climate measures had contributed to the country’s economic boom—a growth of around 17% in 2002, the year in which the civil war ended—although the immediate concerns of the population could still threaten to overshadow the environmental agenda.