Ethiopia May Paradoxically Benefit From Climate Change


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

Blue Nile Falls, Ethiopia. Aleksandra H. Kossowska/Shutterstock

Suffering from corruption, poor sanitation, malnutrition, and enormous economic inequality, Ethiopia is a troubled nation to say the least. However, a new study reveals that it may be getting a welcome boost from a most unlikely source – climate change.

Writing in the journal Climatic Change, a team from Virginia Tech (VT) has concluded that the flow of water to the Ethiopian Blue Nile Basin (BNB) will likely increase as the world inexorably warms. This will allow crops to be grown throughout multiple seasons of the year, potentially rescuing its faltering agricultural sector.


“For all the catastrophic impacts of climate change, there are some silver linings,” coordinating researcher Zach Easton, an associate professor of biological systems engineering at VT, said in a statement.

The team’s cutting-edge hydrogeological models, based on calculations developed by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), assume that the world will continue to warm fairly rapidly. As noted by several other studies, the planet will almost certainly breach the Paris agreement’s 2°C (3.6°F) before 2100, perhaps as early as 2050.

Although this will scorch much of the planet, particularly the Arctic, the Middle East, and North Africa, there are some parts of the world that will marginally benefit. Parts of Canada and Northern Europe will show increased crop yields, for example.

With regards to the BNB, localized changes in the weather will produce more rainfall, and the monsoon season will be extended by four to six weeks by the end of the century.


The northern Nile and its Delta as seen from space. NASA

Of course, things aren’t anywhere near as simple as this. Although there’s a positive case to be made for climate change mitigation – particularly if Hilary Clinton is elected to the US presidency and the Paris agreement is both upheld and strengthened – there’s a lot of despair on the horizon already.

A mortifying study recently estimated that violent crimes and conflict will increase as a result of increasing temperature stress, economic collapse, and resource depletion, particularly within sub-Saharan Africa. By 2030, the occurrence of civil war within this region will have increased by 54 percent.

Ethiopia may end up benefiting from the wholesale destruction of the planet, but it’s worth highlighting just how paradoxical this is. Although the US, China, the European Union, and many other highly developed blocs are the primary contributors to dangerous climate change, it’s in fact much of the African continent that will suffer first and foremost. Ethiopia is turning out to be a peculiar outlier.


In any case, this new study’s models also indicate that the amped-up water flow will bring with it more sediment, which could end up blocking up channels and reducing the capacity of reservoirs and dams, such as the future Grand Renaissance Dam.


  • tag
  • climate change,

  • global warming,

  • agriculture,

  • paradox,

  • rainfall,

  • Ethiopia,

  • water flow,

  • Blue Nile Basin,

  • monsoon,

  • crop yields