Climate change will intensify global conflict

Posted April 17th, 2007 in Blog Comments Off on Climate change will intensify global conflict

Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:

Visitors to this blog know that we have pointed out frequently some of the impacts of climate change that are threatening, and will threaten, habitats that support life, or change the life that is there (e.g., the disappearance of the sugar maple tree from New England before the end of the century, desertification that is burying villages in China and making parts of sub-Saharan Africa uninhabitable, the slow drowning of island nations like the Maldives and Tuvalu and coastal communites such as in Alaska — you know, things like that).

Maybe it’s too much to take in, but just think what this will mean for enormous human populations, hundreds of millions of people who will have to move somewhere else.

Then remember how many of the places that will feel the worst impacts are some of the poorest, most unstable countries in the world.

If we think the rise of an Islamic insurgency is causing global instability…

Okay, even the Pentagon and other military/security institutions are thinking about this, as is the United Nations. This very day, under the prodding of Great Britain, the UN Security Council is debating the security threats from global warming.

Resistant to the debate is the Bush Administration, which does not think the Council is the right place for such a debate.

But also making this news is a report just released by a national security think tank in Virginia, The CNA Corporation. It was written by retired US generals and you can read about it here.

Joining calls already made by scientists and environmental activists, the retired U.S. military leaders call on the U.S. government to make major cuts in emissions of gases that cause global warming.

The Bush administration has declined mandatory emission cuts in favor of voluntary methods. Other nations have committed to required reductions that kick in within a few years.

“We will pay for this one way or another,” writes Zinni, former commander of U.S. Central Command. “We will pay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today, and we’ll have to take an economic hit of some kind. Or we will pay the price later in military terms. And that will involve human lives. There will be a human toll.”

Top climate scientists said the report makes sense and increased national security risk is a legitimate global warming side-effect.

To read the whole report, go here.

Some experts note that the conflict in Darfur is characteristically a conflict arising from the impacts of climate change, which has led to land degradation and desertification. And I guess one could ask how many more Darfurs we can withstand, morally at the very least, before we get the meaning of the threats to ‘security.’

From the article just cited:

Unlike political refugees who can still hope of returning home, “climate refugees” — like those affected by expanding deserts in sub-Sarahan Africa or islanders whose low-lying homes disappear beneath rising waves — will be permanently displaced.

Good God, this is sobering stuff.

So these military officers are doing what comes naturally to military officers — looking at this as a national security threat that may need ongoing military response to chaos and upheavals around the world.

This is what we come to when we have a government and society that won’t address the moral and ethical mandate to alter drastically how human beings live on this planet. If we won’t stop the chaos by changing how our society lives, we will have to deal with the grave security threats that will arise inevitably as societies around the world unravel.

But then, I ask you, how many more massive and unprecedented storms — resulting in huge losses, economic, personal, environmental — are we going to endure in this country before we are willing to get what’s going on? What will we do with these massive populations that will make current immigration problems look like minor annoyances? What will we do especially because we are the biggest contributors to the emissions that are causing global warming? Will we feel any responsibility to these peoples, other than to try to fight them off? Are we really going to go that route?

I just read today that this past month was the second-warmest March ever in the US. More warmth creates more energy in the atmosphere for bigger storm events. This last one that crossed the country was breath-taking in its dimensions. As we have written before, the amount of rain that falls annually in the US has not increased that much in recent decades, but the amount that falls in deluges of 1-2 inches or more has increased sharply.

As we keep saying, no one weather event can be consigned to global warming — it’s the patterns, it’s the computer models that keep being born out by reality.

And frankly, the thought of addressing this as a national security threat needing a military response puts a huge chill down my spine. For one thing, it will tell us that our decision to take drastic action on climate change has come way, way too late.

By the way, during the period 1990-2005, US greenhouse gas emissions rose 16%. Meanwhile, 41% of our emissions come from coal-fired power plants. In the next several years, some 150 of these plants are set to be built in the US, 562 in China.

[tags] global warming and national security, climate change as national security threat, un security council considers climate change, desertification, land degradation, Darfur, environmental refugees, cna corporation[/tags]

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