Experts Say Climate Change Threatens National Security
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Climate change could end globalization by 2040 as nations look inward to conserve scarce resources and conflicts flare when refugees flee rising seas and drought, national security experts warned on Monday.
Scarcity could dictate the terms of international relations, according to Leon Fuerth of George Washington University, one of the report's authors.
Global cooperation based on a resource-rich world could give way to a regime where vital commodities are scarce, Fuerth said at a forum to release "The Age of Consequences."
"Some of the consequences could essentially involve the end of globalization as we have known it ... as different parts of the Earth contract upon themselves in order to try to conserve what they need to survive," said Fuerth, who was national security adviser to former Vice President Al Gore.
Rich countries could "go through a 30-year process of kicking people away from the lifeboat" as the world's poorest face the worst environmental consequences, which he said would be "extremely debilitating in moral terms."
"It also suggests the kinds of hatreds that build up between different groups will be accentuated as these groups attempt to move to more clement locations on the planet," Fuerth said.
Published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the report offers three scenarios for security implications of climate change, starting with the middle-ground estimate by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
This scenario, which the report said could be expected, forecasts global warming of 2.3 degrees F (1.3 degrees C), with sea level rise of about 9 inches by 2040.
"We predict a scenario in which people and nations are threatened by massive food and water shortages, devastating natural disasters and deadly disease outbreaks," said John Podesta, President Bill Clinton's former chief of staff and now president of the Center for American Progress think tank.
Podesta called this outcome inevitable, even if the United States -- the world's biggest emitter of climate-warming carbon dioxide -- enters immediately into an international system to cap and trade credits for the potent greenhouse gas.
This is unlikely, though a bill to limit carbon emissions is up for debate, possibly as soon as this week, in the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee. President George W. Bush has opposed mandatory caps on emissions, saying they would hurt the U.S. economy.
Climate change will force internal and cross-border migrations as people leave areas where food and water are scarce. They will also flee rising seas and areas devastated by the droughts, floods and severe storms that are also forecast consequences of climate change.
South Asia, Africa and Europe will be particularly vulnerable to these mass migrations, notably from countries where Islamic fundamentalism has grown, Podesta said.
In the Middle East, he said, the politics of water will hold sway, with the Jordan River creating a physical link to the interests of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.