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Lake Chad Might Be Shrinking, But It Has Nothing To Do With Climate Change

April 1, 2018

By Paul Homewood



Lake Chad vanishing? Must be climate change!.



Lake Chad – a source of water to millions of people in West Africa – has shrunk by nine-tenths due to climate change, population growth and irrigation. But can a scheme dating back to the 1980s save it?

"It’s a ridiculous plan and it will never happen." That’s the reaction many people have to the idea of trying to fill up Lake Chad and restore it to its former ocean-like glory by diverting water from the Congo river system 2,400km (1,500 miles) away.

Sceptics in Nigeria, who have seen successive governments fail even to make the lights work, wonder if the region’s politicians have nodded off and have been dreaming a little too hard.

But the government ministers and engineers who were recently sipping mineral water in the capital, Abuja, at the International Conference on Lake Chad had good reason to be thinking outside the box.

Lake Chad

Lake Chad has shrunk by 90% since the 1960s, due to climate change, an increase in the population and unplanned irrigation. Its basin covers parts of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, and has been a water source for between 20 million and 30 million people.

But with the desert encroaching further every year, it is getting increasingly difficult for families to make a living through agriculture, fishing and livestock farming. The UN says 10.7 million people in the Lake Chad basin need humanitarian relief to survive.

"We used to pass fields of maize on our way to the lake and there were vast numbers of boats bobbing up and down on the water back then, and huge fish markets," says Bale Bura, who grew up by the lake in the 1970s and now works for the Lake Chad Fishermen’s Association.

Now far fewer farmers are able to earn a living on the mineral-rich but bone-dry shores.

This is one reason why the delegates in Abuja decided to dust off a scheme first mooted back in 1982 by the Italian engineering company Bonifica Spa.

It came up with Transaqua – a plan to construct a 2,400km (1,500 mile) canal to transfer water from the upstream tributaries of the mighty Congo River all the way to the Chari River basin, which feeds Lake Chad.

This is yet another piece of lazy reporting by the BBC, Lake Chad may be shrinking, but it has nothing to do with “climate change”.

In common with much of the Sahel, rainfall amounts in Chad fell drastically during the 1970s and 80s. But since then they are back to historically normal levels.


The Sahel drought was of course during a time of global cooling, when tropical rainbelts were squeezed closer to the equator, something that was well understood at the time by HH Lamb and many other climate scientists.

Lamb traced the same pattern back to earlier ages. In “Climate, History and the Modern World”, he noted that in the desert regions of north Africa there was more moisture than now all through the high Middle Ages and after, from the 11th to 14thC.

He goes on to write (p236):

In the meantime, we do know, from the pollen analysis researches of J Maley of the Universite des Sciences et Techniques du Languedoc at Montpelier, that in the Lake Chad Basin there was a maximum occurrence of the pollens of the plants of the Sudan-Guinean monsoon zone flora between about AD 700 and 1200 and that these and other water-demanding plants declined rapidly over the period 1300-1500.


More recent studies have found that historically the West African Sahel has regularly suffered much worse droughts than in the 1970s. The most recent mega-drought was just 500 years ago, spanning 1400 to 1750 and coinciding with Europe’s Little Ice Age. At the time, Lake Bosumtwi dropped so low for so long that a forest sprouted on the crater’s edges. Those trees now stand in 15 to 20 metres of water .

The submerged trees on Lake Bosumtwi, Ghana, stand in 15 to 20 metres of water (Image: Timothy Shanahan)

The submerged trees on Lake Bosumtwi, Ghana, stand in 15 to 20 metres of water

The facts are quite clear – Lake Chad and the rest of the Sahel are wetter during periods of global warming, and drier during cooling.

As the BBC mentions, populations around Lake Chad have soared in recent decades, and demand for water has increased accordingly. Nigeria’s population alone has tripled since the 1930s.

There is simply no reason to invoke ManBearPig.


NASA’s Earth Observatory has a small piece about Lake Chad, which notes:

Found at the intersection of four different countries in West Africa (Chad, Niger, Nigeria, and Cameroon), Lake Chad has been the source of water for massive irrigation projects

Beginning in 1983 the amount of water used for irrigation began to increase. Ultimately, between 1983 and 1994, the amount of water diverted for purposes of irrigation quadrupled from the amount used in the previous 25 years.

  1. Gerry, England permalink
    April 1, 2018 1:29 pm

    Reasons 2 and 3 would be way ahead of climate change but they have to keep their pet belief going or their pension investments will drop. Tesla not turning out so good at the moment. With the climate now cooling again, will we see the rains decrease?

  2. Sheri permalink
    April 1, 2018 1:35 pm

    “has shrunk by nine-tenths due to climate change, population growth and irrigation”
    As the Meatloaf song said “Two out of three ain’t bad”.

  3. April 1, 2018 2:02 pm

    If Will Ross didn’t mention climate change, Cardinal Harrabin would be down on him like a ton of bricks. Will Ross knows what he has to weite to keep the pay cheques rolling in.

  4. April 1, 2018 2:12 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.

  5. Dorian permalink
    April 1, 2018 2:53 pm

    Chad and co. should go have a good talk with Cape Town. There too, population growth has grown by more than 300% (actually it nearly 1,000%).

    I suggest further investigation, will show, that there have been many recordings of periods of population reduction throughout Africa over the past centuries all due to droughts and food scarcity. European records of the regions, and even stories handed down by oral tradition have told of many villages being wiped out all because of natural events. Is Man to blame of villages being wiped due to water and food scarcity 200, 300, or 400 years ago? No, of course not.

    As pointed out, rainfall in this region is back to its norm. But records, as I just stated, illustrate past long periods of drought, that decimated the region’w wild life including human population. Like Cape Town, Africa has a very tight balancing act to sustain between Human requirements and Nature’s provisions. Many regions through out the world are just starting to understand this; Nevada(i.e Las Vegas), California(the entire SoCal region), Australia(Victoria/NSW), North Africa, many places in Western Europe are places facing water resources problems and they all have the same symptom, over population stress.

    All that remains is that any of these regions enter another decade long drought and they will be in full crisis. Although over population is a direct cause for this natural resource problem, it is not culpable. Culpability actually goes hand-in-hand with governments. Consider Australia. It has now 24 million people, an increase from 11 million from 60 years ago. Most of this population rise is from immigration, especially from zealous immigration policies in the last few decades. Australia is now, like Cape Town, beginning to find it very hard to provide water to support this population. The Australian government(s) are on a crusade, because of racial fears, to enlarge its population to countenance a false defensive premise. Whereas, it is only committing reckless economic and eventual social disintegration. Because feckless governments can’t abide by being limited by Nature or their own rightly modest responsibilities, their arrogance, and in some cases like Australia’s racist views, destine their population to an ignominious and archaic demise. Technology has no answer for arrogance; for arrogance is always blinded by its own magnificence. Arrogance always trumps (no pun intended) science, eventually.

    This Australian excursion, is being replicated around the world, Cape Town, Las Vegas and so on. What we are seeing, is Social Entropy in action. Man does not need Nature, or the Sun, or a meteorite from the limitless skies to destroy it. It does a good enough job all on its own, by repeatedly stuffing more “rats” in the maze, and letting, the occupants of the maze, turn upon itself.

    What is ironic in all this saga, is that there have been tell-tale signs of presentiment expressions by the people. Take for instance, the fertility rates. In all these troubled regions, fertility rates have been falling, in some cases precipitously. Whether or not this is some kind of “social awareness” or “social intellect” going on can be argued for another day, but what is telling is that if governments had heeded these messages and instead of taking upon themselves to stuff more “rats” in our cages, and just accepted the reality that society was saying, directly or indirectly – I let you decide – that there were enough “rats”, we would all be better for it.

    Governments are to blame for most of the problems are we facing in life today. But, of course, we the people elect them, so it goes hand-in-hand we are to blame, not Nature, not Global Warming, or whatever other Natural occurrence that may or may not be driven by Man.

    So if you want less war, more water, cheaper food, cheaper goods, and so on, its time to stop listening to the economists whom say that more is better (that is, bigger markets make better economies of scale), for economists have yet been proven right on any economic theory since the inception of economics. Time to stop listening to the banker-robber-barons whom are only interested in their capital hegemonies. Time to stop listening to political leaders with irrational fears and patriotic bigotry. And start listening to the people and learning how they are finding it harder to live. There is a reason why such indicators as fertility rates are falling. It has more to do with families finding it harder to live because of the increase burden governments are placing on them, and not because we need another desalination plant!

  6. Bloke down the pub permalink
    April 1, 2018 3:11 pm

    So the increased population are struggling to grow enough crops around the edge of the lake and their solution is to put the area under 30m of water. Maybe I’m just a tad cynical but I wouldn’t mind betting that when all those people find their homes inundated and have to pick up their belongings and migrate, it’ll be climate change that’s given as the cause.

  7. RogerJC permalink
    April 1, 2018 3:20 pm

    Over the years lake Chad has regularly naturally shrunk and then increased in size again several years later. Now that not only it but it’s main tributary is being drained for irrigation and drinking water there is little chance of it refilling naturally. The lake is also very shallow consequently the volume of water in it is low. However, the rich soils that the shrinking lake has revealed has allowed for the expansion all sorts of agriculture including growing salad stuff. Many of the farmers see this as an advantage and do not want to see the lake refilled and their farms flooded.

  8. April 1, 2018 3:27 pm

    It might have something to do with long term climate change, but not the kind today’s CO2-obsessed propagandists are trying to sell us.

    North African climate cycles

  9. Bitter&twisted permalink
    April 1, 2018 3:31 pm

    Another complaint to the BBC?

  10. Bitter&twisted permalink
    April 1, 2018 3:55 pm

    Complaint submitted.
    I’ll provide feedback

    • Sheri permalink
      April 1, 2018 4:54 pm

      Just curious—does complaining work? Complaints to the FCC here are ignored mostly. I gave up on complaint forms years ago. It’s like sending a letter to Santa Claus, except no one in the post office sends a form response promising me something if I’ve been a good girl.

  11. dennisambler permalink
    April 1, 2018 5:28 pm

    This is more re-cycling. They have their pet topics and pull them out again when they have been forgotten for a while, all part of “keep the topic live”:

    Pre-Copenhagen letter to Obama from Greenpeace:

    “Already climate impacts, such as the drying up of Lake Chad, one of the largest inland seas in the world, have exacerbated the tragedy in Darfur, where water scarcity and competition for land have destroyed the lives of millions.”

    Lake Chad experienced rapid falls in lake levels around 1680-1690, 1740-1760, and 1800-1840, attesting to desiccation in the area of northern Nigeria. Six to seven thousand years ago, Lake Chad was the biggest lake in the world, at 400,000 square kilometers.

  12. John F. Hultquist permalink
    April 1, 2018 7:05 pm

    “unplanned irrigation” [Will Ross, 31 March]

    What? It just happened!
    Bless his little heart.

    What poor Will means is that the irrigators did not consider the affects on the Lake and environment when they planned and built their projects.

    I think I first saw a reference to shrinking Lake Chad about 50 years ago. Likely, that was via HH Lamb, or maybe Reid Bryson, of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and a contemporary of HHL.

  13. AZ1971 permalink
    April 2, 2018 4:03 am

    This isn’t “lazy reporting”—the BBC uses every trick to get ignorant people swindled on what they’ve deemed the truth. They do this in the order of listing of causes. Population increase and “unplanned irrigation” (whatever unplanned is supposed to mean) both account for vastly more pressure on the lake’s level than is climate change. A simple check of rainfall records shows there’s little in the way of drought causing sustained declines of the lake level, so therefore the population increase is directly responsible and nothing more.

  14. April 2, 2018 12:58 pm

    The mindset is something to ponder. Since our elections, my support of President Trump has been met with opposition from friends whose politics I was unaware. One example is a female friend from graduate school in the 1960’s–I was her maid of honor, godmother to her son, attended both his graduation from LSU and wedding in New Orleans. Before that, I drove 2 days each way to help them move into a house in the Montgomery, AL area from Kansas. You might say we had been close.

    Following the election, she “liked things” and commented positively on newsfeed items which dubbed me as a “moron, racist, bigot, uneducated, and (my favorite) racist a$$hole.” I actually confronted her about the last one and she “did not remember it.” I did and texted her the picture of it which I had saved. She has slowed down on those articles recently. However, she has now shifted into posting and liking things such as animals in distress worldwide, etc. Of course, always caused by man. It is all doom and gloom.

    I think those on the left have become addicted to “doom and gloom” and “woe is us” articles. They literally cannot be happy or see positive when it lands on them. Anything wrong anywhere in the world is cause for hand-wringing. The government and media use of this is a form of mind control of people. I consider it sick. It is a major reason why I avoid the media like the plague.

  15. Stonyground permalink
    April 2, 2018 2:41 pm

    Lake Stonyground’s garden has grown significantly in recent weeks due to climate change.

  16. Russ lampe permalink
    April 2, 2018 7:48 pm

    In describing the reasons for the Lakes shrinking, those with warmist ideology must always list global climate change first.

  17. April 4, 2018 9:52 pm

    A bit late to the party here, but in looking at the historic rainfall map, certain trends stand out. In a GW world, leading up to about 1945, or so, there’s an increasing trend. Then, as we had global cooling leading up to the late 1970’s, it’s a decreasing trend, followed by yet another increasing trend in the most recent era of GW. interesting, as we’ve now had about 20 yrs of a hiatus from GW, it looks like a flat trend is taking shape.

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