Fact Check: Joe Biden Says Climate Change Caused Darfur Conflict


Claim: Former Vice President Joe Biden claimed on Sunday during CNN’s Democrat presidential debate that the conflict in Darfur, Sudan, was due to climate change.

Verdict: False.

“What’s Darfur all about? Darfur was all about the fact that the sub-Sarahan desert, because of the change in the climate, no longer had enough arable land,” Biden said during a conversation about the alleged effects of climate change.

However, despite Biden’s claim, many analysts have blamed racial conflict and land rights, not climate change. The United Nations (U.N.) estimated that 300,000 had died because of the conflict. The International Criminal Court (ICC) had indicted Sudan President Omar al-Bashir for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

James Copnall, a Sudan analyst, wrote in 2013 that the Darfur conflict originated over “hakurat,” or land rights. Copnall also wrote that the conflict arose between Arab militias and African groups such as the Fur, Zaghawa, and Masalit.

The Atlantic helped popularize the idea that the “real roots” of the Darfur conflict was “global warming” in a 2007 article.

The Atlantic noted that much of Darfur’s lands were “failing,” which was explained through “imprudent land use.” Atlantic writer Stephan Faris wrote:

Why did Darfur’s lands fail? For much of the 1980s and ’90s, environmental degradation in Darfur and other parts of the Sahel (the semi-arid region just south of the Sahara) was blamed on the inhabitants. Dramatic declines in rainfall were attributed to mistreatment of the region’s vegetation. Imprudent land use, it was argued, exposed more rock and sand, which absorb less sunlight than plants, instead reflecting it back toward space. This cooled the air near the surface, drawing clouds downward and reducing the chance of rain. “Africans were said to be doing it to themselves,” says Isaac Held, a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Faris wrote that climate scientists devised an alternative theory: climate change had changed Darfur’s environment.

“This was not caused by people cutting trees or overgrazing,” Alessandra Giannini, a Columbia University climate professor, said.

However, even as the Faris noted, it remains an “open question” on the extent to which human activity can be blamed for a country’s changing environment.

Sean Moran is a congressional reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @SeanMoran3.


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