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HTI blog on climate change and African diaspora

HTI blog on climate change and African diaspora

Written by Dr. Patricia Elaine Perkins

March 13, 2023

Climate justice is a central priority of the HTI, which “focuses on the struggles in current lives of African peoples and diasporic communities to achieve social justice and covers contemporary forms of exploitation.”

Africans, who make up about 17% of the global population, have contributed only 2-3% of the CO2 and other emissions which cause climate change.  But Africa is the most vulnerable continent to climate change impacts.

Africa’s climate is warming faster than the global average, and sea level rise along African coastlines is faster than the global mean, increasing the frequency and severity of coastal flooding and erosion, and agriculture-endangering salinity in low-lying areas.  Droughts, fires, floods, and increasingly variable weather drive agricultural crises and jeopardize food sovereignty and health across Africa.  An estimated 140 million people in Africa are food insecure, and 20% of the population faces chronic hunger; a growing emergency in the Horn of Africa this year threatens more than 37 million people.   Climate impacts are particularly severe for the more than 14 million people who are internally displaced in sub-Saharan Africa (WMO 2022, WHO 2022).

New international research demonstrates the extent to which the fossil fuel era was founded on deep racism, which continues to permeate mainstream and especially right-wing approaches to the post-fossil future (Malm et al. 2021; Yeampierre 2019; Achiume 2022).

African activists and researchers both on the Continent and in the diaspora are fighting for climate justice, and helping to lead global movements for stronger climate action and global climate funding.  (Louw 2021, Reddy 2022, Akina Mama Wa Afrika 2018, Climate Justice 4 Africa 2023, PACJA 2023). 

York University faculty and graduate students who are contributing to climate justice research include Balikisu Osman (; Sampson Adese (PhD student in Environmental and Urban Change (EUC) researching the political ecology of post-Shell research extraction in Isokoland, Nigeria); Tatiane Reis (PhD student in Women and Gender Studies working on gender, extraction, and climate in southern Africa);  Dr. Adeyemi Owusola (EUC grographer researching impacts of climate change on rivers); Dr. Mahtot Gebresselassie (EUC transportation planner who researches transport equity and extreme weather events); EUC PhD student Hillary Birch, with research in South African cities on sanitation, global health, and climate change.

African and Afro-descendant scholars from Kenya, Mozambique, Cameroon, Nigeria, South Africa, and Brazil are contributors to the book Climate Justice and Participatory Research: Building Climate-Resilient Commons, edited by HTI Fellow Dr. Patricia E. (Ellie) Perkins (


Achiume, Tendayi (2022).  The global climate crisis is a racial justice crisis: UN expert.

Akina Mama Wa Afrika (2018).  Working to save the planet: A directory of African Ecofeminists, climate and environmental justice advocates.

Climate Justice 4 Africa (2023). In Africa, climate catastrophe is not a future threat but a daily fact of life.

Louw, Angelo (2021).  10 African youth climate activists changing the face of the planet.  Greenpeace,

Malm, Andreas and the Zetkin Collective (2021). White Skin, Black Fuel: on the danger of fossil fascism.  Verso.

Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) (2023).  African Activists for Climate Justice.

Reddy, Trusha (2022). New loss and damage fund announced at COP27: a critical need or another empty promise in a time of climate crisis.  WOMIN, November 23.

World Health Organization (WHO) (2022). Horn of Africa faces most ‘catastrophic’ food insecurity in decades, warns WHO.  UN News, 2 August.

World Meteorological Organization (WMO) (2020).  State of the Climate in Africa 2021, WMO No. 1300.

Yeampierre, Elizabeth (2019).  Climate Justice: the challenges of the global majority.  Rose Sheinberg Lecture.