Muammar el-Gadhafi gave Libya's people plenty of reasons to hate him. But it may have taken climate change to do him in.
That's the interesting perspective of CSR Talkwire's Francesca Rheannon, who explained last March how, across the Arab world, climate change begat draught begat famine begat unrest:
The recent sharp rise in food prices was the spark to the flame fanned by decades of tyranny, beginning in Tunisia, spreading to Egypt and now roiling Bahrain, Algeria, Oman, Yemen and Libya. Libya imports fully 80 percent of its food; the other countries are also heavy food importers. … While other factors play a role, climate change has been the major driver behind higher food prices.
In May, a study in the journal Science estimated that climate change was responsible for a 3 percent drop in global wheat and corn output, enough to drive commodity prices up 20 percent from where they would otherwise have been, Reuters reported.
The cost of food was just one of many factors in Gadhafi's bloody assassination Thursday. But if the world's fossil fuel dependence continues to drive up global temperatures and food prices, the world's poorest won't be content to be the only victims of climate change. Starving people take governments and leaders down with them—sometimes through violence.
Gadhafi's many sins made his government especially vulnerable. But history may remember him as the canary in the climate-change coal mine.