The coming chaos

Posted April 24th, 2007 in Blog Comments Off on The coming chaos

Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:

A few days ago, I posted about the British initiative to get global warming/climate change considered in the United Nations as an issue of international security pertinent to the agenda of the UN Security Council. Most countries, including the US, opposed the move, saying this was an issue more appropriate to the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council. On the other hand, the debate on the topic drew a great deal of interest.

Today’s NY Times has an op-ed by someone I am reading right now, Thomas Homer-Dixon. It is entitled ‘Terror in the Weather Forecast,’ which certainly draws one’s attention.

Homer-Dixon is director of the Trudeau Center for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Toronto and the book I am reading right now, The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal of Civilization, is both disturbing and supurb.

Anyway, I recommend the op-ed to you.

Evidence is fast accumulating that, within our children’s lifetimes, severe droughts, storms and heat waves caused by climate change could rip apart societies from one side of the planet to the other. Climate stress may well represent a challenge to international security just as dangerous — and more intractable — than the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War or the proliferation of nuclear weapons among rogue states.

Indeed. Just imagine hundreds of millions of environmental refugees spanning the globe seeking a place to live, places with water and food because their land has become desert or been inundated by rising seas. Think about the potential for violent conflict over those sources of what we need to live. Ponder the rise of insurgencies and the heating up of ethnic rivalries. Think about how the majority of US Americans already feel about undocumented people coming here — or the rising racism and fear in Europe over the influx of immigrants to their countries.

And so I agree that the international peace and security issues are enormous. At the same time, there has been an ungoing debate about the powerful role the 15-member Security Council has on these issues in an organization of 192 member states.

Some think the venue is inappropriate because climate change is not a security issue. Some think it wrong because of under-representation, exclusivity, lack of broader participation. This latter issue is critical if we are to find our way to an international regimen to deal with global warming.

The Bush administration doesn’t like the approach because, as you can imagine, these folks want to hold onto the ability to act unilaterally to secure resources for the US economy and its base of military power around the world.

With all that, it is absolutely crucial that UN members find a way to deal with the coming chaos. Global climate change isn’t even the only problem. This emerging crisis will combine with resource shortages around the world as we add 2-3 billion more people to the planet. Fossil fuels will begin to run short, or be stretched beyond capacity, and there will be even greater demand on land, water, fish, and forests.

Without international cooperation on a binding regimen that begins to reduce our human ecological footprint, this scenario will unfold in the most disturbing ways. With such cooperation, centered around the common good and the ‘good of the commons’ [the good of what we share in common on this Earth], along with a good dose of good will and generosity on the part of the wealthy nations, we have a chance to move more gently into this period of scarcity and avoid some of the chaotic violence whose potential seethes under the surface of our inaction.

[tags] global climate change, climate change as international security issue, United Nations Security Council, Thomas Homer-Dixon, resource scarcity, Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies[/tags]

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