Valuable natural resources – such as gold, diamonds, high-grade timber and oil and high-grade timber – are often used to finance wars, prolonging them and exacerbating their destructive impact. Disputes over the control of such natural resources can also be a source of violent conflict.
Natural hazards such as floods, droughts and storms are a threat to human security.
Floods are the most frequent of all natural hazards. They cause the greatest economic loss and claim the most lives. Droughts are disasters that occur suddenly because of a prolonged absence of rainfall. If an affected region does not have sufficient food reserves and no relief efforts are forthcoming, a drought can result in catastrophic famines. Storms take many different forms according to region. They may occur as tornadoes, winter storms or tropical cyclones. With wind speeds of up to 400 km/h, storms can develop incredibly destructive force and leave devastation in their wake.
Climate change, finite levels of fossil energy sources and rising energy demand in the coming decades require that alternative sources of energy are found and that existing resources are used sparingly. Intelligent energy systems, decentralised supply networks and a greater use of renewables can contribute substantially to peace and stability.
Environmental problems know no political boundaries or social divisions. Solving these problems therefore requires collective efforts in the area of environmental protection. Away from the polarizations of economic and political relations, environmental cooperation can contribute to building trust, to initiating dialogue and to fostering the creation of a regional identity based on the shared use of natural resources. Peacebuilding through environmental cooperation can create a positive political framework for cooperation and helps to reduce the likelihood of open conflict between countries and social groups.
Water is an indispensable resource – both for humans and the environment. For thousands of years, people have been rivals for scarce water resources. Only around one percent of the Earth’s water supply is fresh water readily available for human use. In addition, that one percent is distributed very unevenly in terms of geography and the seasons.
Southern Africa faces significant risks due to climate change. The region is already highly exposed to the effects of periodic warming of the Pacific or El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the cold episode of ENSO, also known as La Niña. These cycles respectively cause severe droughts and floods in the region. They are a major driver of climate variability, which is partly responsible for food insecurity.