An international team of climate scientists said Wednesday that they did not find climate change to be the driving cause of the calamitous drought and famine currently gripping Madagascar. The researchers, organized by World Weather Attribution, did not identify a clear climate signal in the “precipitation deficits” in the Grand Sud region where the crisis is worst. They also acknowledged “anomalously high temperatures in the area” may have helped to dry out the landscape — a dynamic witnessed in major droughts elsewhere.
Climate change is increasing food insecurity globally, and widespread food insecurity and famine across Madagascar is an undeniable humanitarian crisis, but one with numerous contributing factors.
The scientists found that, while climate change is making droughts more frequent and severe in many regions globally, current levels of warming did not have a statistically significant impact on the current “rainfall deficits” in Madagascar. The severe famine, driven in large part by the drought, shows “what a very narrow range of possible weather we are actually adapted to” study co-author Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at the University of Oxford and co-leader of WWA, told Reuters. If anything, the current crisis illustrates the costs and danger of failing to halt further climate change.
“What it shows is that the current climate variability is already resulting in severe humanitarian suffering,” Maarten van Aalst, director of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Center and one of the scientists involved in the Madagascar analysis, told the New York Times. “In these sorts of places, anything that climate change would make worse would become a really big additional problem really quickly.” (Reuters, New York Times $, Washington Post $, AP, Thomson Reuters Foundation, CNN, The Guardian; Global food insecurity increase: Thomson Reuters Foundation, explainer; Climate Signals background: Drought)