Bill Rammell, a junior minister in Great Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, recently suggested that maritime piracy could increase ten-fold around the world as a result of climate change.
The links between piracy and climate change are by no means direct or obvious, but they are nevertheless a source of concern. Climate change can act as a ‘threat multiplier’ by severely eroding natural resources (such as fish, farmland and freshwater) that many coastal communities rely on for livelihoods.
Erosion of natural resources is especially worrisome when combined with weak, corrupt or non-existent local government and law enforcement. The piracy problem in Somalia, although not directly linked to climate change, provides an extreme example of how fishermen can turn to piracy in a country that has not had an effective government for almost two decades.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that about 80 percent of the world’s fish stocks are either depleted or fished at their limits. Population growth and climate change are likely to exacerbate the pressures in the coming decades.
‘Teach a man to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime’ is a well-known adage in the foreign aid field. However, when the fields are flooded and the fish stocks are depleted, there is a real danger that poverty-stricken fishermen may turn to less savoury forms of employment.