Posted by: bklunk | April 2, 2007

The Security Ecology Link

In view of the post quoted below it might be interesting to read Gregg Easterbrook’s Global Warming: Who Loses–And Wins? in the April issue of The Atlantic Monthly

Fight Climate Change as a Security Measure?

Yes, says David Miliband, UK Environment Secretary. 

He draws a connection between the fight against climate change and natural resource conflicts.

Mr Miliband, in a speech to the global environment campaign group WWF, said tackling climate change was “our best hope of addressing the underlying causes of future conflict in the world, and is as significant for foreign policy as it is environment policy”.

Well, I like where his heart is, optimism is certainly a useful attitude when attempting to tackle such an enormous problem.  These sound to me like the words of an environmentalist overestimating his issue’s importance.  While I agree that a successful campaign against global warming would increase future prospects for cooperation, I think it would be foolish to assume that it is our best foreign policy hope, or that it would curtail future conflicts.  In light of the growing consensus concerning climate change, it is reasonable to expect undesirable consequences from global warming (even if it is successfully halted.)  In other words, the environmental and natural resource conflicts to which Mr. Miliband refers will likely continue to take place even after global warming is stopped.

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Responses

  1. While I agree that not all world conflict could possibly be solved by halting global warming, I think that, if one looks at the bigger picture, Secretary Miliband makes a very good point. It is not too far out of line to say that almost all conflict in the world is caused by resources–the lack of resources, striving to get more resources, etc. If the states of the world were to lessen their dependence on natural resources like coal and oil, it is definitely likely that, in addition to reducing greenhouse gases, there would also be less to fight over. Especially with the growing resentment in developing countries towards developed countries who want to hold them to the same emissions standards, there is already serious unrest when it comes to the issues of natural resources and their effects on the environment. If all states of the world were to rely on sun, wind, geothermal heat, etc, for their energy needs, there would be little reason to argue and fight over scarce natural resources coming from the earth.

    However, it seems that developed countries need to aid developing countries in harnessing alternative resources, insteaad of just condemning their emissions right now. (Although this means that developed countries need to put greater emphasis on alternative sources, as well.) I think that Mr Miliband is definitely right: if the countries of the world relied on clean, renewable energy, there would be much less conflict over resources, land, and wealth.

  2. I do not agree that Mr. Miliband is being “optimistic” , nor that he is overestimating the importance of global warming and the issues that will eventually arise if it’s root causes are not stopped. In fact, Mr. Miliband is being realistic; there is already a worldwide crisis regarding natural resources, and the threats of running out of oil, fresh water, and farmable land are more imminent everyday. Therefore, when the consequences of global warming that have been predicted culminate (rise of ocean levels leading to mass movements of refugees, rising of the earth’s temperature affecting crops and animals, etc.) these threats will become even more severe, leading to an all out fight for survival on a global scale. Mr. Miliband is absolutely correct in saying that the drastic effects of global warming will lead to future conflict between states. Haley is also correct in saying that if everyone became more efficient in their use of resources, and more focused on the development of renewable energy, future international conflicts caused by global warming could be avoided.

  3. Imagine a global scene without the developed countries in the world clamoring for security of oil reserves and then ask the question of whether or not alternative energy solutions and decreased dependency on Middle Eastern oil will resolve global conflicts. One could safely assume that much less economic, political and military conflict would exist. According to stopglobalwarming.org, if the sea level were to rise just 1 meter, 5% of the world economy would be wiped out almost entirely. This would undoubtedly put increased strain on the world political arena because the disaster-affected areas would turn to the UN, for example, for relief. If a more cooperative political climate is not created, whether through cooperation on environmental issues or something else, the international politics scene would be incapable of addressing this problem, and there would be several hundred cities worldwide facing the same problem as New Orleans.

    In my opinion, climate change/global warming is an issue the world can, and should, unite on a unanimous front in order to foster healthier relationships between world powers, while saving the planet at the same time. It is this needed shift towards liberal internationalism that will hopefully set the precedent for a more cooperative world civil society.

    I do not understand the assertion that there would be undesirable effects of halting global warming. Will countries begin fighting wars over wind energy?


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