The United Nations’ top climate change official said on Tuesday that food shortages and rising prices caused by climate disruptions were among the chief contributors to the civil unrest coursing through North Africa and the Middle East. Christiana Figueres, in white blouse, met with children in Sehwan, Pakistan, who have been displaced by floods.Agence France-Presse – Getty Images Christiana Figueres, in white blouse, met with children in Sehwan, Pakistan, who have been displaced by floods.
In a speech to Spanish lawmakers and military leaders, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations climate office, said that climate change-driven drought, falling crop yields and competition for water were fueling conflict throughout Africa and elsewhere in the developing world. She warned that unless nations took aggressive action to reduce emissions causing global warming such conflicts would spread, toppling governments and driving up military spending around the world.
“It is alarming to admit that if the community of nations is unable to fully stabilize climate change, it will threaten where we can live, where and how we grow food and where we can find water,” said Ms. Figueres, a veteran Costa Rican diplomat and environmental advocate. “In other words, it will threaten the basic foundation – the very stability on which humanity has built its existence.”
Rising food prices were a factor in the January riots that unseated Tunisia’s longtime president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, although decades of repression and high unemployment also fed the revolution. The link between food and resource shortages and Egypt’s revolution is less clear.