Containing Climate Change& Its Social Impacts

Carter F. Bales and Richard D. Duke.
“Containing Climate Change.”
Foreign Affairs
September/October 2008
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Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Aug 25, 2008
Analyst warns of looming global climate wars
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/08/25/2345829.htm

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” … governments in the US and UK are already being briefed by their own military
strategists about how to prepare for a world of mass
famine, floods of refugees and even …”

” … if the world does not decarbonise by 2050, you don’t want to be there,
according to Dr Dyer.

“My kids will and I don’t think that is going to be a pleasant
prospect at all, because once you go past 2 degrees – and you could get past 2
degrees by the 2040s without too much effort – things
start getting out of control,” he said.
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The prospect of global wars driven by climate change is not something often
discussed publicly by our political leaders.

But according to one of America’s top military analysts, governments in the US and
UK are already being briefed by their own military
strategists about how to prepare for a world of mass famine, floods of refugees and
even nuclear conflicts over resources.

Gwynne Dyer is a military analyst and author who served in three
navies and has held academic posts at the Royal Military College at Sandhurst and at
Oxford.
Speaking about his latest book, Climate Wars, he says there is a
sense of suppressed panic from the scientists and military leaders.

“Mostly it’s about winners and losers, at least in the early phases of climate
change,” he said. “If you’re talking about 1 degree, 2
degrees hotter – not runaway stuff – but what we’re almost certainly committed to
over the next 30 or 40 years, there will be countries that get away relatively cost
free in that scenario, particularly
countries in the higher latitudes.”

But he says that closer to the equator in the relatively arid zone – where Australia
is situated – there will be very serious droughts. “[There will be] huge falls in
the amount of crops that you can grow because there isn’t the rain and it’s too
hot,” he said.

“That will apply particularly to the Mediterranean… and so not just the north
African countries, but also the ones on the northern side of the Mediterranean. “The
ones in the European Union like Spain and Italy and Greece and the Balkans and
Turkey are going to be suffering huge losses in their ability to support their
populations.

Climate refugees

He says a fall in crops and food production means there will be
refugees, people who are desperate. “It may mean the collapse in the global trade of
food because while some countries still have enough, there is still a global food
shortage,” he said.

“If you can’t buy food internationally and you can’t raise enough at home, what do
you do? You move. So refugee pressures – huge ones – are one of the things that
drives these security considerations.”

In Climate Wars, even the most hopeful scenarios about the impact of climate change
have hundreds of millions of people dying of
starvation, mass displacement of people and conflict between
countries competing for basic resources like water.

“India and Pakistan are both nuclear-armed countries. All of the
agriculture in Pakistan and all of the agriculture in northern India depend on
glacier-fed rivers that come off the Himalayas from the
Tibetan plateau. Those glaciers are melting,” Dr Dyer said.”They’re melting
according to Chinese scientists to 7 per cent a year, which means they’re half gone
in 10 years.

“India has a problem with this. Pakistan faces an absolutely lethal emergency
because Pakistan is basically a desert with a braid of
rivers running through it.

“Those rivers all start with one exception in Indian-controlled
territory and there’s a complex series of deals between the two
countries about who gets to take so much water out of the river.
Those deals break down when there’s not that much water in the
rivers.”

And then you have got the prospect of a nuclear confrontation, Dr Dyer says.

“It’s unthinkable but yet it’s entirely possible. So these are the prices you start
to pay if you get this wrong,” he said. “Some of
them, actually, I’m afraid we’ve already got them wrong in the sense that there is
going to be some major climate change.”

Dr Dyer explains the least alarmist scenario for the next couple of decades still
involves enormous pressures on the US border. “That
border’s going to be militarised. I think there’s almost no question about it
because the alternative is an inundation of the United
States by what will be, effectively, climate refugees,” he said.

“They [US] are concerned actually about losing a lot of land and a lot of crop
production within the United States itself. “A lot of
Florida’s basically about six inches above sea level – and the
Mississippi River Delta, well we’ve already seen what one hurricane did there – plus
of course many interventions overseas by the
American armed forces as much bigger emergencies occur in much bigger parts of the
world.”

Worst-case scenario

But the real insight into the US study is that the more severe
climate change scenario is the one that analysts think is the more likely one.

“And it’s not just the analysts. I spent the past year doing a very high-speed
self-education job on climate change but I think I
probably talked to most of the senior people in the field in a dozen countries,” Dr
Dyer said.

“They’re scared, they’re really frightened. Things are moving far
faster than their models predicted. “You may have the Arctic ocean free of ice
entirely in five years’ time, in the late summer. Nobody thought that would happen
until about the 2040s – even a couple of years ago.”

Dr Dyer says there is a sense of things moving much faster, and the military are
picking up on that.

He also says we will be playing climate change catch-up in the next 30 years.

“The threshold you don’t want to cross, ever, is 2 degrees Celsius hotter than it
was at the beginning of the 1990s,” he said. “That is a margin we have effectively
already used up more than half of. It would require pretty miraculous cooperation
globally and huge cuts in emissions.”

And if the world does not decarbonise by 2050, you don’t want to be there, according
to Dr Dyer.

“My kids will and I don’t think that is going to be a pleasant
prospect at all, because once you go past 2 degrees – and you could get past 2
degrees by the 2040s without too much effort – things
start getting out of control,” he said.

“The ocean starts giving back to the atmosphere the carbon dioxide it absorbed. That
world is a world where crop failures are normal.
Where, for example, Australia does not export food any more, it is hanging on to
what it can still grow to feed its own people but that is about all that it is going
to be able to do, and many countries can’t even do that.”

He says China will take an enormous blow.

“There is a study out from the Chinese Academy of Scientists and then swiftly
disappeared again, but about two years ago, we predicted the maximum damage that
would be done to China under foreseeable climate change in the 21st century was 38
per cent cut in food production,” he said.

“That is only about three-fifths of the food they now eat and there will be a lot
more of them.

“I think we will end up having to do things that at the moment nobody would consider
doing like geo-engineering, ways of keeping the
temperature down while we get our emissions down.”

– Adapted from an interview first aired on The World Today, August 25.

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