Refugees and War
Modern civilization has never experienced weather conditions as persistently disruptive as those we should expect from here on. Nor have we yet faced the appalling consequences of a significant rise in sea-levels.
If the sea rises a modest 400mm 22% of coastal wetlands will be lost, and more when we include the likely human reaction to that change. It would impact on over 400,000 square Km of coast, especially in the deltas of Bangladesh, Vietnam and China, while the Kiribati, Fijian and Maldive islands would lose a large part of their most arable land.
The cost of dealing with such a rise was recently estimated to be £9 billion. Insurers have warned that the cost of just one major flood would be almost twice that, especially in the financial district of Central London. What then if the ice sheets of Greenland melted?
A one meter sea-level rise would affect 6 million people in Egypt, with some 15% of agricultural land lost, 13 million in Bangladesh with 16% of the national rice production lost, and 72 million in China with tens of thousands of hectares of agricultural land.
Enormous areas of the most productive agricultural land would be underwater. One thinks immediately of Bangladesh and the North Sea farms in Holland and Anglesea. In addition frequent floods, droughts and storms caused by the huge land-form changes and increasingly disturbed atmosphere would cause severe losses every year. The reduction in food production would ensure that half the world's population would be hungry or starving
The anticipated 7 meter sea rise from glacier collapse will be far worse. This will directly uproot 300 -1,000 million people, some 15% of the world's population. The ricochet will be far-reaching and incalculable.
Where will all these homeless and starving people go? Who will look after them? How will their governments be forced to react?
Imagine eastern European countries struggling to feed their populations with a falling supply of food, water, and energy, eyeing Russia, whose population is already in decline, for its grain, minerals, and energy. Or Japan, with flooded coastal cities and contamination of its fresh water, eying Russia’s Sakhalin Island oil to power desalination plants and energy-intensive agricultural processes. Envision Pakistan, India, and China skirmishing at their borders over refugees, access to shared rivers, and the remaining arable land.
Prospects for major conflicts
As abrupt climate change lowers the world’s ability to feed its people, aggressive wars are likely to be fought over food, water, and energy. Deaths from war as well as starvation and disease will decrease population size, which will, over time, bring the population down to whatever level the earth can sustain.
Violence and disruption from the stresses created by abrupt change pose different conditions to any we are used to. This will create a sense of desperation, which is likely to lead to offensive aggression in order to reclaim balance. The massacres in Darfur are an early example of the coming climate wars.
Military confrontation may be triggered by a desperate need for natural resources such as energy, food and water, rather than by conflicts over ideology, religion, or national honour.
Such catastrophic environmental problems are likely to escalate global conflict.
Nations with resources may build fortresses around their countries, preserving some security for themselves. Less fortunate nations especially those with ancient enmities with their neighbours, may be left to struggle for food, clean water, or energy. With over 200 river basins occupied by more than one nation, we can expect conflict over access to water. For example, the Danube touches twelve nations, the Nile nine, and the Amazon seven.
In this world of warring states the use of nuclear arms is inevitable.To the top