Story highlightsLake Chad in Africa’s Sahel region has shrunk by over 90% since the 1960s due to prolonged droughtExtreme weather events in parts of Africa and the Middle East have bolstered the influence of militants, experts say Countries must invest in climate adaptation programs to prevent citizens from falling into grip of extremists
(CNN)Climate change is already triggering devastating weather events across the planet, including prolonged droughts, flash floods and wildfires.
Parts of Africa and the Middle East are experiencing erratic harvests, heavy storms and the worst drought in the past 900 years. Experts say that people here who are struggling to provide for their families are vulnerable to the influence of extremist recruits who offer them work and food.Read More Vanishing Lake Chad bolsters Boko HaramAcross the Sahel, a semi-arid region between the Sahara desert and Sudanian Savannah in Africa, temperature increases are projected to be 1.5 times higher than the global average, according to the United Nations. About 50 million people in the Sahel are pastoralists whose livelihoods depend on rearing livestock. But droughts and floods triggered by climate change are shrinking their lands, leaving over 29 million people food insecure. Photos: The fingerprint of climate change: Heat, drought and wildfiresA sunflower with dried leaves is seen near Perly-Certoux, Switzerland, on Monday, August 6.Hide Caption 1 of 21 Photos: The fingerprint of climate change: Heat, drought and wildfiresFirefighters try to extinguish a wildfire in Monchique, Portugal, on Tuesday, August 7.Hide Caption 2 of 21 Photos: The fingerprint of climate change: Heat, drought and wildfiresA look at the dried-up riverbed of the Rhine in Dusseldorf, Germany.Hide Caption 3 of 21 Photos: The fingerprint of climate change: Heat, drought and wildfiresPeople cool down under a mist in Tokyo on Monday, August 6.Hide Caption 4 of 21 Photos: The fingerprint of climate change: Heat, drought and wildfiresA cow tries to find food on a dry pasture in Ballendorf, Germany.Hide Caption 5 of 21 Photos: The fingerprint of climate change: Heat, drought and wildfiresPeople crowd a swimming pool in Yongin, South Korea, on Thursday, August 2.Hide Caption 6 of 21 Photos: The fingerprint of climate change: Heat, drought and wildfiresThe effects of heat haze are seen in this photograph as pedestrians cross a street in Tokyo on Thursday, August 2.Hide Caption 7 of 21 Photos: The fingerprint of climate change: Heat, drought and wildfiresA man walks his dog in the dry riverbed of the Dreisam in Freiburg, Germany, on August 1.Hide Caption 8 of 21 Photos: The fingerprint of climate change: Heat, drought and wildfiresPeople use portable fans to cool down during a rally in Seoul, South Korea, on Wednesday, August 1. It was the hottest day in Seoul in 111 years, according to the Korean Meteorological Administration.Hide Caption 9 of 21 Photos: The fingerprint of climate change: Heat, drought and wildfiresA burning house is reflected in a pool in Redding, California, as the Carr Fire rages on Friday, July 27.Hide Caption 10 of 21 Photos: The fingerprint of climate change: Heat, drought and wildfiresA bead of sweat falls from a member of the Queen’s Guard as he takes part in a changing of the guard ceremony in London on Monday, July 23. The UK is currently in the midst of one of its hottest summers on record, according to the Met Office.Hide Caption 11 of 21 Photos: The fingerprint of climate change: Heat, drought and wildfiresAn aerial photo, taken on Thursday, July 26, shows damage that a wildfire caused in the Greek village of Mati. Authorities investigating the wildfire said that there are “serious indications of arson,” but extreme weather conditions — high temperatures, strong westerly winds and a dry winter — contributed to the disaster.Hide Caption 12 of 21 Photos: The fingerprint of climate change: Heat, drought and wildfiresCars are blocked after a wildfire caused a road closure in Kineta, Greece, on Monday, July 23.Hide Caption 13 of 21 Photos: The fingerprint of climate change: Heat, drought and wildfiresSheep stand around a waterhole in the middle of a sun-bleached field in Garding, Germany, on Tuesday, July 24.Hide Caption 14 of 21 Photos: The fingerprint of climate change: Heat, drought and wildfiresPeople cool themselves at the Trocadero Fountain, in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Friday, July 27.Hide Caption 15 of 21 Photos: The fingerprint of climate change: Heat, drought and wildfiresFirefighters try to extinguish wildfire flames in Kineta, Greece, on Tuesday, July 24.Hide Caption 16 of 21 Photos: The fingerprint of climate change: Heat, drought and wildfiresFirefighters tackle a forest fire near Potsdam, Germany, on Thursday, July 26.Hide Caption 17 of 21 Photos: The fingerprint of climate change: Heat, drought and wildfiresA man in Tokyo shields his eyes from the sun on Tuesday, July 24. Dozens of people have died across Japan as the country continues to swelter under scorching summer temperatures.Hide Caption 18 of 21 Photos: The fingerprint of climate change: Heat, drought and wildfiresA view shows parched grass in London’s Greenwich Park on Tuesday, July 24.Hide Caption 19 of 21 Photos: The fingerprint of climate change: Heat, drought and wildfiresTraffic is backed up on the M20 motorway in England as people line up to get to the Eurotunnel in Folkestone, England, on Thursday, July 26. Passengers using the cross-Channel services were warned of delays of up to five hours after air-conditioning units failed on trains amid sizzling temperatures.Hide Caption 20 of 21 Photos: The fingerprint of climate change: Heat, drought and wildfiresThe dried-up bed of the Wayoh Reservoir is seen near Bolton, England, on Monday, July 23.Hide Caption 21 of 21 The impact of climate change on the Sahel is clearly shown by the shrinking of Lake Chad. Spanning seven countries, including Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon, the lake basin is critical to the livelihoods of nearly 30 million people. But since the 1960s the lake’s water supply has shrunk by over 90%, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. This aerial picture taken on July 16, 2016 shows Lake Chad in Africa’s Sahel region. The lake’s water supply has shrunk by over 90% since the 1960s. Robert Muggah, who analyzes global climate and security challenges at the Igarape Institute, a think tank in Brazil, says the diminishing water sources are “flashpoints for violence” as communities struggle with reduced crop yields and high levels of poverty. “Climate shocks and stresses are pushing many into extreme poverty. Joining an armed group is sometimes the only option available,” he added. What is climate change? Your questions answeredIn 2018, US officials expressed concern about ISIS and al Qaeda affiliates in the Sahel region. Muggah agrees with this assessment, claiming that the drying of Lake Chad has bolstered recruitment efforts of extremist groups including Boko Haram, the militant group operating in Nigeria. Does water scarcity create a terror spring? The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is the world’s most water scarce region. MENA is home to six percent of the world’s population, but only one percent of the world’s freshwater resources, according to the World Bank. 17 countries in the region fall below the water poverty line set by the United Nations, and some experts believe that drought played a part in sparking Syria’s civil war. According to a study from 2015, severe drought, likely compounded by climate change, triggered mass migration from rural to urban areas in Syria between 2007 and 2010. The prolonged dry spell led to the death of 85% of livestock in eastern Syria and widespread crop failure, according to Jamal Saghir, a professor at the Institute for the Study of International Development at McGill University. This pushed 800,000 people into food insecurity and prompted 1.5 million people to migrate to already overpopulated cities, contributing to the civil unrest which erupted in 2011 and spiralled into civil war, Saghir told CNN. Iraqi marsh Arabs collect the remains of dried out reeds in the Hor or marshes on November 18, 2009. The inhabitants of these ancient marshes are suffering from the slow suffocation of the marshes due to drought triggered by climate change. The impacts of “climate-induced drought” were also linked to the growing influence of ISIS in the Middle East in a 2017 report commissioned by the German foreign office. The report said that increased water scarcity in Syria “played an important role” in the forming of ISIS and that “ISIS tried to gain and retain legitimacy by providing water and other services to garner support from local populations” during the prolonged drought.However, other researchers have disputed how much of a role drought played in the conflict.Can the Middle East solve its water problem? In 2009 ISIS’ recruitment efforts targeted impoverished farmers in Iraq whose livelihoods were devastated by drought and fierce winds, according to Saghir. “Terrorist organizations like ISIS capitalize on the devastation wrought by climate change to attract new members,” said Saghir. “The ISIS recruiters offered money, food and other riches to rural Iraqis to lure them into joining the ranks of the jihadist group. With no means to sustain themselves through agricultural means, many farmers accepted ISIS’ bribes for both monetary and morale support,” he said.Sustainable alternatives to extremism To prevent their citizens from falling into the grip of extremists, countries must invest in adaptation programs, which will reduce people’s “vulnerability to extreme climatic events,” Nadim Farajalla, director of the climate change and environment program at the American University of Beirut, told CNN. Two ways for countries to become more climate resilient include diversifying their crop production and investing in renewable energy, he said. Countries susceptible to drought should move away from irrigating their crops and focus on rain-fed agriculture, growing crops like lentils and chickpeas instead of the water-intensive livestock feed alfalfa, he explained. Solar power should be harnessed in the fight against extremism, according to Rachel Kyte, CEO of UN initiative Sustainable Energy for All.A general view shows a solar plant at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan on November 13, 2017. Providing communities in Africa and the Middle East with clean, affordable energy can help them cope with climate change, advance women’s rights and beat back support for extremists, Kyte told CNN. “With solar-powered irrigation we have an opportunity to increase agricultural yields in rural communities, giving families greater income and greater economic hope,” she said. Muggah agreed that small-scale interventions like solar electricity generators can have a “transformative effect on neglected communities.” “By strengthening and empowering local residents, the influence of extremist groups can be weakened,” he said.