The striking inequality between more and less developed countries when it comes to climate change was clearly highlighted at COP 26. Developed countries have failed to fully address their disproportionate levels of emissions. greenhouse gases, while developing countries have demonstrated how the impacts of climate change are existential for their populations.
Somalia faces large-scale and immediate impacts of climate change, through drought, internal displacement of populations and extreme weather events.
Fardowsa Wehliye and Sarah Glaser virtually sat down to discuss climate change in the Horn of Africa and their views on the issues. Fardowsa (FW) is a Somali marine biologist completing her Masters in Turkey, and Sarah (SG) is the Director of Secure Fisheries, a program that works on fisheries management in the Somali region.
SG : Fardowsa, do you remember when you realized that climate change was a problem?
FW : In the first year of my license, at the end of 2014, I had a mission on “global warming”. I had no idea what it could be. I asked myself: "But what is it? Then I started to search and read a lot of articles to understand climate change. After much research, I realized that climate change is a global problem. Even though we studied at school, I don't know about climate change. And the same goes for the other students.
SG : I think a lot of us learned about climate change either in school or through the news. I certainly learned it in school. It makes me wonder, what do your family think?
FW : My family, and other Somali families, are aware of and are thinking about the impact of climate change happening around the world. However, there is a dire lack of education and awareness of the consequences of this upheaval. Most people don't believe that they are part of the problem or at least that it is human activity. It is difficult for them to understand or explain climate change and its impact. They think it is something from Allah. I had a conversation with my mom about climate change. I asked her if she knew about it. She told me she was aware of climate change. Although she left school at the elementary level, she has a lot more knowledge of it than I thought. I asked her if she knew the cause, if she knew how it affected society and our family. She replied that one of the causes is industrialization, the same cause as air pollution. When there is more carbon dioxide in the air, it increases greenhouse gases and causes global emissions. She also told me that there is an increase in temperature, lack of rain, long term drought, cyclones, monsoons and currents occurring in the ocean.
She even told me that when it is the monsoon season, the fish production decreases because the small fishermen cannot go fishing and it is dangerous for the sea.
bathing. I believe that Somali society is an oral and listening society, rather than a reader. Media and television can play an important role in teaching people that the changes they see or feel are caused by climate change. It is increasing rapidly and they are part of the problem. We all need to be part of the solution to stopping climate change.
What about where you live? What is the difference between the United States and Somalia in terms of climate change?
SG : I think the main differences are in the responsibility for the causes and the capacity to adapt.
In terms of impacts, the United States faces increased storm intensity, drought and water stress in agricultural centers, movement of fish stocks, flooding from heavy rainfall. Because we have more forests than Somalia the forest fires have been a huge problem for us which I don't see in Somalia. But the United States is the second largest producer of greenhouse gases after China. Our population is also less than a third of that of China. Our use of fossil fuels is the root of the problem. However, we also have a greater response capacity, from a technological and societal point of view. Many types of zero-emission technologies are being developed here, and engineers are finding ways to adapt our cities to rising seawater and stronger storms. So while we bear the greatest responsibility for the cause of global warming, we also have an immense capacity to help slow it down and respond to it. But the United States has lacked political and societal will for decades. This is starting to change, of course, but it is not going fast enough.
And you? You have observed the marine environment in Somalia for many years. What are the impacts of climate change in Somalia and your coastal communities?
FW : In Somalia, the impact of climate change started slowly a long time ago, but is now increasing rapidly.
Currently there are stronger storms and cyclones, coastal erosion, sea level rise, drought, lack of rain, flooding and declining fishery resources. Today, the evidence of climate change in Somalia is more visible than it was decades ago. People lose both their lives and their resources, whether in the land or in the sea.
The impact of climate change on coastal communities is mainly coastal erosion due to storms and sea level rise, observed especially on Liido beach, and flooding caused by cyclones.
In addition, we observe a phenomenon of yoyoing effected by the temperatures: sometimes, it is colder than before. Over the past two years, the seasons have changed, some months have gotten hotter, others have gotten colder. The country has experienced four years of drought. Fortunately, last year it rained, but it caused flooding and people were displaced. Right now the weather is much warmer than usual. In 2021, people expected the "Gu season" rainfall from April to June, but there was little or no rain. Some parts of the country have been hit by drought. The lack of water has become cruel. During monsoons or storms, fishing becomes dangerous. The fishermen who depend on the fishery do not receive any other form of support, so they go fishing at every opportunity. Some fishermen lose their lives and others lose their property when cyclones destroy their boats.
Fishermen have told me that storms or cyclones cause resource conflicts among some of them. There is no other livelihood option. No suitable alternative for them. The lack of fish and the dangerous conditions of the sea intensify these conflicts. For example, fishermen go fishing at night and the gear they usually use is either a gillnet or a hook. Let's say there have been storms or cyclones, the fishing gear can get tangled in the sea. In the morning, when everyone wakes up and sees that the gear is mixed up, it causes conflict between the fishermen. It is difficult to manage. Everyone thinks the equipment is theirs. Sometimes when fishermen cannot come up with a solution, they go to co-ops or other members to take care of it.
Thinking about these major impacts, I wonder what your opinion is on the possible ways for the world to come to the aid and support Somalia, as it is one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change in the world. ?
SG : The world can help Somalia, and other developing countries like it, adapt to the realities of climate change while making a stronger commitment to reducing our own carbon emissions.
I see a few areas where assistance to Somalia is possible.
First, support resource management through scientific capacity and policy development to build resilience. For example, coral reefs and mangroves in Somalia will suffer from climate change, but they are already suffering from the impacts of overfishing and coastal development. Support for resource management, such as area-based conservation in sensitive marine habitats, and political support to tackle illegal foreign fishing, would reduce stressors so that ecosystems are more resilient to warmer waters.
Second, support food and water security through infrastructure. Desalination is expensive, but Somalia has much more saltwater than freshwater, and new projects to harness solar-powered desalination infrastructure are a fantastic solution. Supporting green energy production is crucial - solar power works incredibly well in Somalia.
Finally, the best long-term support that the emitting world can give Somalia is to commit to “aggressively” reducing our GHG emissions and to meet those commitments.
Talking about the climate crisis can be depressing.
Are you optimistic that the world will come together to stop climate change?
FW : Yes, I am optimistic. The world can unite to stop climate change. Indeed, the world has united to fight the coronavirus pandemic. So why not unite all the forces available to all the communities that make up this world, to face climate change? It has been over a century since the impacts of climate change began. I have seen young people and elders rise up to be part of the solution. I always wonder why world leaders, as one man, are not taking action to stop the impact of climate change. I believe that if the world unites once and for all to stop climate change, this is the best way to solve it because it certainly, just like the pandemic, has an impact on all of us. Climate change in one place will impact its neighbors. No one is immune and will not be spared. Some countries, like Somalia, have virtually no contribution to climate change, yet they suffer the most.
I remain resolutely optimistic about the ability of world leaders to find a solution and put an end to this scourge that threatens us all.
Dr Sarah Glaser
Madame Fardowsa Wehliye