Afghanistan’s Growing Threat is Climate Change

Shah Foladi, one of four officially recognized national parks in Afghanistan. Image: Sune Engel Rasmussen/The Guardian

Nearly six years ago the Pentagon declared that climate change poses “immediate risks” to national security and will have broad and costly impacts on the way the US military carries out its missions. While the Trump administration has largely ignored this warning, it’s beginning to play out in very real ways, especially in Afghanistan.

As NatGeo reported, “Afghanistan is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change, and one of the least equipped to handle what’s to come. Experts say drought, flood, avalanches, landslides, extreme weather, mass displacement, conflict, and child marriage—all of which already plague Afghanistan—are set to worsen.” This also means that instability and terror threats will also escalate as climate change continues to threaten natural resources and the livelihoods of Afghans.

What’s Happening: According to NatGeo, There has been relatively little attention paid to climate change in Afghanistan, where

  • The majority of Afghans are farmers or earn income from agriculture, and where the United Nations Environment Programme estimates 80 percent of conflict is over land, water, and resources.
  • Assistance to help Afghans cope with the effects of drought and climate change-related hardships is often too short term or does not take into account the actual needs of Afghans on the ground.

In Afghanistan’s central highlands especially, irregular snowmelt and rainfall are pushing people’s survival to the edge. As the Guardian reported, food insecurity in Afghanistan is an immediate consequence of global warming. Currently, about 13.5 million Afghans remain severely food insecure.

Biodiversity: Years of NGO aid hasn’t worked to protect Afghanistan’s abundance of nature. As NatGeo noted, national biodiversity is another victim of international donors, such as USAid, that subsidize fertilizer and pesticides to Afghan farmers, and have used pesticides to eradicate poppies. Many international agencies generally have a “poor understanding” of Afghanistan’s natural riches thus funding isn’t helping to support biodiversity.

Why This Matters: As Yale University explained, terrorists take advantage of disruptions in fragile states – and these include water and food shortages associated with climate change. Climate change is one of the greatest threat multipliers for global instability and the United States’ current foreign policy is woefully disregarding this fact. Billions of dollars of international aid have been directed to Afghanistan yet if we don’t take immediate action on the climate crisis, then much of this money will have been spent in vain.

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