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Climate Change May Raise The Prospects Of East African Drought And Famine—American Conservatives Do Not Care

A recent article in New Scientist said that changing weather patterns have increased the chance for recurring drought in East Africa. 

(Above–Oxfam photo of a family gathering firewood in drought-stricken Kenya in 2011.)  

From New Scientist

“Last year’s drought occurred because both of the region’s rainy seasons failed. We already know that the trigger for the failure of the “short rains”, between October and December 2010, was La Niña – a cyclical meteorological event caused by a pulse of cool water rising to the surface of the eastern Pacific Ocean. But efforts to work out why the “long rains” that occur between March and May fail have drawn a blank – until now.

Bradfield Lyon and David DeWitt of Columbia University in New York examined records of the long rains and found that they have been much more likely to fail since 1999. That year also marked a sharp rise in sea-surface temperatures in the western tropical Pacific Ocean, while further east the ocean cooled.”

The story goes on to very clearly state that the reasons for the prospect of recurring drought in East Africa are by no means the definite result of man-made climate change. The article says that studies are now ongoing to see if the droughts are naturally occurring, are influenced by human activity, or are caused by some combination of these two factors.

(It should also be noted that some of the problems of famine in Somalia have been caused by Islamic insurgent groups stopping shipments of food.)

The thing is that here in the United States one of the two major political parties won’t even allow all the needed research to take place, and won’t even consider the prospect that man-made climate change is for real.

And if a bunch of people in Africa die so we don’t have to change our lives in any way, or so we can retain the ideological purity of the Republican Party—Then I guess that is the way it goes.

Many American conservatives have reached the point where they see bike trails as a United Nations plot.

A recent Oxfam report says that global response to the 2011 famine drought in East Africa was very slow in starting, and that many lives were lost as a consequence.

Here is a BBC series of reports about famine in East Africa.

Here is a New York Times page of a number of links and articles about climate science.

Here is how to make a donation to Oxfam for famine relief.  I just made a small donation as it seemed the thing to do to back up my post.

Another thing we can all do in the United States is to ask our political leaders to at least be open to the prospect of climate change, and to support the necessary research to determine the facts.

We are not the only people in the world. What we do impacts others.

February 23, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , ,


  1. African famine (like most famines in recent history) is indeed man-made, but not in the way you suggest. (Or in the way Time Magazine suggested in 1974, when it claimed global cooling caused the six-year African famine.)

    Insecure property rights and food aid reduce the incentives for farming, particularly the kind of long-term, high-intensity farming that we employ so well. (See Zimbabwe.)

    The New Scientist story notes that the last drought this bad was 60 years ago. What caused that one?

    Comment by Matt Bramanti | February 24, 2012

  2. I’m sure you would have been the first one calling for Ian Smith to leave Rhodesia.

    Republicans today are under great pressure not even to admit the prospect of global warming. How can the absence of full debate serve the truth?

    Comment by Neil Aquino | February 24, 2012

  3. Neil, I’m talking about Mugabe’s Zimbabwe in the 2000’s.

    I’m not sure why you’re suggesting I would support Ian Smith. He was opposed to the sort of property rights I just said I favor.

    I suspect you’re trying to drop hints that I’m a racist like Smith but don’t want to say it directly. Do you think I’m a racist, Neil?

    Comment by Matt Bramanti | February 25, 2012

  4. I can state without hesitation that I do not think you are a racist.

    Also, the suggestion one would not be at the forefront of a specfic cause does not imply that such a person is a racist. And I did not say that you would support Ian Smith.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | February 25, 2012

  5. Climate change is upon us and the discussions are often like pushing a rock uphill. We’ve had similar difficulty over the years with other important change issues like racial equality, women’s rights, isolationism, Wall Street and global economics. Change is difficult and there are folks of good conscience on all sides of the issues.

    Famine in Africa isn’t new, of course. Djibouti, one of my work sites, hasn’t had a decent rain in centuries. Agriculture is virtually non-existent and there’s been little in the way of alternative development. Coastal Kenya has similar problems but for different reasons. In both cases, good governance is the primary missing element, but climate contributes significantly. Our contribution to that issue must be dealt with, and so the public debate continues.

    I stopped here because of your photo; I have friends who live like that; dear friends. Oxfam is one among many organizations working to save lives and your donation is commendable. If those were our children or our brothers and sisters, though, would we do more than just make a small donation?

    Comment by Brian Dickerson | March 23, 2012

  6. Nothing I can add to your helpful comment. Though if you’d like to write a few hundred words on these issues I’d be happy to make it a full blog post here under your name. Thanks.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | March 23, 2012

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