There is an endless list of consequences for climate change and now we will add, pirate attacks.
However, there is nothing risky, adventurous, or fun about pirates off the Horn of Africa, in the Gulf of Guinea, off the coast of West Africa, or in parts of Asia and Latin America.
Last year, there were 162 pirate attacks reported to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), although there are likely unreported cases. The IMB maintains the database as part of the commercial crime services of the International Chamber of Commerce.
Those cases involved four hijacked ships, 11 that were fired upon by armed groups, 130 ships that boarded pirates, and 17 attempted attacks. Crew kidnappings rose more than 50 percent in the Gulf of Guinea, accounting for nearly the entire world total last year, despite overall piracy declining somewhat.
The oil industry itself attracts piracy crimes, and the waters of West Africa and Nigeria, in particular, are a frequent target. This is because Nigerian ports are at the epicenter of Africa's oil industry and ships are lucrative targets. Analyst AbishekMishra, writing for India's Observer Research Foundation, argues that industry-linked corruption and unemployment fuel the ire of extremists seeking economic justice.
"Paradoxically, the discovery of large amounts of hydrocarbons offshore has generated poverty rather than wealth," he explains. “It has exacerbated social tensions and increased environmental pollution. Only the central government, oil companies, and local elites have benefited from oil production. " In some cases, the pirates don't want ransom money: they steal the product and create their own illegal refineries.
Those excluded from the profits sometimes turn to this form of oil piracy, adds Sarah Newgarden for the well-regarded Borgen Project, a humanitarian organization based in the United States. Until poverty and sustainable development are addressed, piracy remains a source of income.
There are also strong links between piracy and the fishing industry, which also raises concerns about future maritime resources, the "blue economy" and a changing climate. African and Asian fishers whose income is impaired by a lack of fish, often due to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices in the industry, are common players when it comes to piracy.
Sebastian Axbard, a researcher who studied this link in Indonesia, says that environmental disturbances can drive fishermen into piracy due to lack of resources. "When you have good oceanographic conditions, you have more fish and higher income for fishermen and, as a consequence, you also have fewer piracy attacks," Axbard told The GlobePost.
Such attacks can appear on the world's major trade routes, including the Strait of Hormuz, through which roughly a third of the planet's annual energy resources pass each year, as well as the Red Sea and the Gulf of Adam. Piracy may be linked to a regional conflict, as has been the case in Somalia, with such conflict increasingly linked to climatic shocks that place stress on land, food and water resources, as well as forcing migration and displacement.
Eliminating global dependence on fossil fuels will not end piracy, but understanding how oil contributes to the problem can bring us closer to energy alternatives. Experts say a closer look is also needed at how climate change is driving poverty and despair, which in turn manifest themselves offshore.