Climate change is the one of the biggest existential threat faced by entire world and also one of the major driver of current and future global conflicts. Climate change is an important catalyst for war, terrorism and major migration patterns, Dutch armed forces chief Tom Middendorp has told a conference in The Hague.
The Center for Climate & Security in its briefing book argues that climate change presents a significant and direct risk to U.S. military readiness, operations and strategy, and military leaders say it should transcend politics. It goes beyond protecting military bases from sea-level rise, the military advisers say. They urge president Trump to order the Pentagon to game out catastrophic climate scenarios, track trends in climate impacts and collaborate with civilian communities. Stresses from climate change can increase the likelihood of international or civil conflict, state failure, mass migration and instability in strategically significant areas around the world, the defense experts argue.
Historically during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), temperatures in the deep ocean rose by about five degrees Celsius and sea surface temperatures increased by up to nine degrees Celsius. This hot period lasted for about 100,000 years and caused the extinction of many species.United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon once described the war in Darfur, Sudan as the world’s first climate change conflict, caused in part by the fighting over scarce water resources.
As rising sea levels, coupled with extended droughts that lead to failed crops and food shortages, hit poorer nations, millions of people are expected to go on the move to regions faring better. Senior military figures from around the world have warned that climate change is expected to cause a major refugee crisis, and that this will represent one of the greatest security threats ever faced.
It has already been identified as a factor contributing to the current migrant crisis dominating Europe at the moment. In the Syrian conflict alone, it is thought that the displacement of over a million farmers due to an ongoing drought wracking the country has helped spark the current civil war, which has now resulted in around 12 million refugees, half of whom have fled the country altogether.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, giving an overview of global threats said, “ Increased competition for “ever-diminishing food and water resources” will amplify socio-economically motivated armed conflicts, countries’ difficulties controlling their borders, and instability more generally during annual intelligence community conference in D.C. The United Nations’ IPCC, in a landmark report, also warned that growing competition for resources in a world under climate change could lead to conflict.
According to NASA, the current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is very likely human-induced and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented in the past 1,300 years. The rate at which global sea level is rising in the last decade, is nearly double that of the last century. Climate change is increasing the frequency and magnitude of many of extreme weather phenomena that occur naturally including Droughts, wildfires, heat waves and intense rainstorms. Flooding in Paris and the Arctic heat wave are just two instances where climate change contributed to extreme weather in 2016—and there are many more examples.
Climate Change leading to Increasing the Risk of War in Africa
In a study published in Science, researchers Tamma Carleton and Solomon Hsiang, both from the University of Berkeley, say that rising temperatures in sub-Saharan Africa since 1980 have raised the risk of conflict by 11%.
“Although climate is clearly not the only factor that affects social and economic outcomes, new quantitative measurements reveal that it is a major factor, often with first order consequences,” they wrote in their study, which reviewed more than 100 other studies on the social and economic impacts of climate change.
Their conclusion is based on statistical analysis of data from a 2009 study that also claimed the risk of armed conflict will rise roughly 54%, or an additional 393,000 battle deaths, by 2030, if future temperature trends bear out.
Earlier researchers Marshall B. Burke and his colleagues from several American universities found from regression analysis of historical data, that there is a relationship between past internal conflict in sub-Saharan Africa and variations in temperature (but not precipitation) and that there are “substantial increases in conflict during warmer years”.
In their paper “the first comprehensive examination of the potential impact of global climate change on armed conflict in sub-Saharan Africa, ” they predicted in numerical terms, a 1% increase in temperature leads to a 4.5% increase in civil war in the same year and a 0.9% increase in the following year. By the year 2030, based on averaged data from the 18 climate models used, this will translate to approximately a 54% increase in armed conflict incidence in the region.
The researchers argue that conflict will derive from economic uncertainties resulting from temperature-related yield declines in societies heavily dependent upon agriculture. This is because research to date has found that “economic welfare is the single factor most consistently associated with conflict incidence”.
Syrian drought contributed to conflict in Syria
Study by Earth scientists at Columbia University, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found: “Climate change is implicated in the current Syrian conflict”.
There is evidence that the 2007−2010 drought contributed to the conflict in Syria. It was the worst drought in the instrumental record, causing widespread crop failure and a mass migration of farming families to urban centers. For Syria, a country marked by poor governance and unsustainable agricultural and environmental policies, the drought had a catalytic effect, contributing to political unrest
Century-long observed trends in precipitation, temperature, and sea-level pressure, supported by climate model results, strongly suggest that anthropogenic forcing has increased the probability of severe and persistent droughts in this region, and made the occurrence of a 3-year drought as severe as that of 2007−2010 2 to 3 times more likely than by natural variability alone. We conclude that human influences on the climate system are implicated in the current Syrian conflict.
Climate Change may lead to future War in Arctic
The Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the globe. In the past 100 years, average Arctic temperatures have increased at almost twice the global average rate. In 2012, Arctic sea ice reached its smallest extent in recorded history, 1.3 million square miles. The reduction in ice extent has led to an increase in human activity, in resource extraction,fishing, and tourism.
As the Global warming is melting the Arctic ice, and opening up new shipping trade routes and real estate, intense resource competition over an estimated $1 trillion untapped reserves of oil, natural gas and minerals has started. Russia is acting quickly to become dominating Geostrategic and Military power in the Arctic. Russia’s new military doctrine signed into effect on December 26, 2014, identified Arctic as one of three geopolitical arenas that Moscow has deemed vital to national security.
US has intensified its intelligence activities in Arctic, through U.S. spy satellites orbiting overhead, Navy sensors deep in the frigid waters. Most of the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies have assigned analysts to work full time on the Arctic. The U.S. intelligence focus is chiefly aimed at Russia’s military buildup in the far north under President Vladimir Putin.
Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft warned that Russia was militarizing the Arctic and accused Moscow of “saber-rattling” by conducting unannounced military drills in the Arctic area involving thousands of troops. Adm. Mark Ferguson, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe, expressed similar concerns about aggressive Russian activity in the Arctic, noting that Russian submarine activity was at its highest point in 20 years.
Though the Region is regulated with international rules regarding territorial jurisdiction of the coastal states, Nevertheless, there remains a disputed and undivided geographical area around the North Pole with potentially substantial hydrocarbon sources. Thus, there is potential for interstate conflict in the Arctic area related to unresolved border issues, control of the maritime routes, and demarcation of the resource-rich continental shelves under the Arctic Ocean.
Malthusian Overpopulation theory of War
Annalee Newitz and Joseph Bennington-Castro have compiled the 10 most important theories about why we make war. One of the theory proposed by Thomas Malthus’ was population theories, which suggests simply that war is the inevitable result of an expanding population with scarce resources.
Stanford economist Ran Ambramitzky explains this idea quite simply in a paper. The human population increases at a geometric rate, faster than the food supply. Voluntary “preventative checks” try to keep population growth down, such as when people make rational decisions about the number of kids they are going to have based on their income, etc. When these checks fail, “positive checks,” including war, famine and diseases, reduce the population and balance it with resources. Malthus believed that as long as humanity didn’t come up with decent preventative checks, the positive check of war would ensure that population didn’t outstrip food supply.
This idea overlaps a bit with the “ecological imbalance” theory of war, in which “conflict flash points” are the result of ecological stress from humans exploiting too many resources from the land. When resources run out, conflicts arise.
But not everyone agrees that there is a direct link between climate change and increased conflict, Dr. Vesselin Popovski, Senior Academic Programme Officer and head of the United Nations University Institute of Sustainability and Peace’s Peace and Security Section, argues that there is an indirect link between climate change and conflict.
“There is no doubt that impoverishment and human insecurity may arise as a result of climate change, if preventive measures are not undertaken. However, there is missing evidence that global warming directly increases conflict.”
Popovski cites a prominent study by scholars from the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo that claims that “the causal chains suggested in the literature have so far rarely been substantiated with reliable evidence”
“The causes of conflict are primarily political and economic, not climatic. Warlords — who foster conflict — may exploit draught, flooding, starvation, agricultural or natural disasters in their strategies, like they did in Somalia and Darfur. But what will drive their fight is not the rain, the temperature, or the sea level — they will always fight for the same goals of power, territory, money, revenge, etc.”
Popovski questions the idea that increased resource scarcity always leads to conflict. He suggests that scarcity of water or other critical resources might do the opposite, encourage cooperation, as it has done in the Lake Chad or Nile Basins.
Therefore although it has not been comprehensively established through serious evidence that climate change is cause of present and future conflicts, but everyone agrees it may be one of the most important driver of future conflicts, which in combination with other drivers may lead to conflicts and war unless properly managed.
NASA find compelling evidence for rapid climate change
The 10 of the warmest global temperature years occurred in the past 12 years. Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world — including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa. In 2013, the daily level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere surpassed 400 parts per million for the first time in human history.
Global sea level rose about 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) in the last century. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the acidity of surface ocean waters has increased by about 30 percent. The number of record high temperature events in the United States has been increasing, along with increasing numbers of intense rainfall events.
Researchers using Attribution science to determine impact of climate change
Friederike Otto, deputy director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford explains in Scientific American about how attribution science works and why it’s a critical part of helping communities prepare for and adapt to climate change. Whenever an extreme event happens, usually people ask, “Did climate change play a role?” We aim to provide scientific evidence to answer that question within the news time frame—so within two weeks of the event occurring.
All extreme events have different forcings [factors that influence Earth’s climate], and one of the forcings can be climate change. While studying an extreme weather event, We simulate what is possible given the current forcings, and we figure out the likelihood of this event occurring in today’s climate. Then we determine what would have been possible weather in a world without climate change by simulating that world by removing the anthropogenic warming from the climate models, or by doing statistical modeling on observations of the late 19th and early 20th century. If the likelihoods of the extreme weather event we’re interested in are different [between these two worlds], then we can say climate change caused this difference. It can be a difference in intensity or frequency.
“The science really only came into existence within the last five years. We first had a technical breakthrough—you need to be able to simulate weather over and over again, and that was technically impossible even in the 1990s. Only in the 2000s did it become an option because of greater computing power.”
According to Otto, this research allows us to get a more comprehensive picture of what climate change actually means, it provides scientific evidence to the public discourse and also allows us to make better planning decisions.
“The next big challenge is to work on disaster-risk reduction, and on the impacts of extreme events. Because the question people ask is not, “What is the risk of three-day rainfall in Paris?” The question they ask is, “What’s the risk of flooding in Paris?” And that depends not only on the meteorological event, but also on other factors, like the size of the river catchment, the management of the river, and all these aspects of vulnerability and exposure.”
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