Fears grow that climate conflicts could lead to war

Fears grow that climate conflicts could lead to war

Among the 21st-century threats posed by climate change – rising seas, melting permafrost and superstorms – European leaders are warning of a last-century risk they know all too well: war.

Focusing too narrowly on the environmental consequences of global warming underestimates the military threats, top European and United Nations officials said at a global security conference in Munich this weekend. Their warnings follow the conclusions of defense and intelligence agencies that climate change could trigger resource and border conflicts.

Climate change is a threat multiplier that leads to social upheaval and possibly even armed conflict,” the UN’s top climate official, Patricia Espinosa Cantellano, said at the conference, which was attended by the U.S. secretaries of defense and homeland security, James Mattis and John Kelly.

Even as European Union countries struggle to assimilate millions of African and Middle Eastern migrants and refugees, security officials are bracing for more of the same in the future. Secretary General Antonio Guterra named climate change and population growth as the two most serious “megatrends” threatening international peace and stability.

Hotter than ever

“Ground zero” for armed conflict over the climate will be the Arctic, where record-high temperatures are melting ice and revealing natural resources that some countries might be willing to fight for, Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto said on a panel.

“We have already seen flag planting and already some quarrels on the borderlines,” Niinisto said, pointing to new Russian military bases on its Arctic border. “Tensions will rise.”

The Arctic climate paradox – where countries could fight for rights to extract the very fossil fuels that would cause even more global warming — underscores energy’s role as a cause and potential moderator of climate change, according to Niinisto.

For Russia, the world’s biggest energy supplier, European nations switching to renewables represents an economic threat. At the same time, European over-reliance on Russian energy exposes them to coercion, according to Kelly Gallagher-Sims, a former climate and energy adviser to President Barack Obama.

hotter than ever

Source: Met Office Hadley Centre and Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia

 

Source: Bloomberg

Date: March 2017

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