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Why is the MoD so seriously concerned about global warming?

Josh Arnold-Forster on the social collapse we are not prepared for (click here for link)


The Ministry of Defence is not known for its concern for the environment. Nevertheless there is one group of people at the MoD very interested in climate change and, in particular, catastrophic climate change - namely the strategic planners.


They know that the armed forces can react and adapt very rapidly to limited changes in the strategic environment. What the forces cannot do is meet a fundamentally different kind of challenge from the one with which they are equipped to deal. In 1939, the British army was the wrong size, had the wrong equipment and, most dangerously, the wrong doctrine to meet the threat from Germany.


That is why the MoD's planners insist on trying to look ahead several decades. Of course, much of this futurology is speculative, subjective and all too frequently wrong. But one trend on which there is ever greater scientific certainty is the impact of climate change.


In the 2003 defence white paper the MoD argued: "Religious and ethnic tensions, environmental pressures and increased competition for limited natural resources may cause tensions and conflict - both within and between states. The UK may not remain immune from such developments."


More recently in an MoD discussion note, climate change was one of four themes identified as strategically important: "The combined effects of increased global human activity, economic output and population growth look likely to intensify pressure on the environment and food, water and energy resources. This trend will be exacerbated by urbanisation and the creation of 'mega-cities', while industrialisation and personal expectations in developing countries will strain all resources." In Darfur, environmental pressures (through lack of water) have already contributed to generating an internal conflict that is rapidly becoming regional. In Afghanistan, a recent six-year drought has helped to impoverish people, making young men more willing to accept cash inducements to join the Taliban and farmers more likely to grow opium.


These influences are small compared to what may be the start of far more disturbing changes. What happens if, or when, sea levels rise and force millions from their homes in Bangladesh, the Nile Delta and the coastal regions of China? What happens when floods, landslides and storms regularly leave millions unemployed and homeless?


Many in the MoD strongly believe that these are not just environmental or development issues, but vitally important security questions that need to be given far more serious consideration, both within government and by the public. Naturally, failed states and international terrorism are significant current threats to security, but that does not excuse us from focusing on future threats.


Rapid response


There are two ways in which the UK's armed forces will have to respond to challenges presented by climate change.


First is disaster relief and humanitarian assistance. In principle, civil organisations could play a bigger role in disaster relief. Sadly, so far none has been willing to stump up the very large amounts of cash required to gain the military's ability to provide rapid response, or operate in very difficult terrain.


The second and more difficult task that the armed forces may face is the potentially huge security challenge created by climate change. No one knows how this will manifest itself. As more and more people in Bangladesh seek sanctuary from rising sea levels, will the tensions created lead to a collapse of the state and war with India? Will poverty caused by growing water shortages in North Africa boost support for international terrorism? Will floods and environmental degradation in China lead to economic collapse and a rise in nationalism?


In an ideal world, the best and cheapest methods of dealing with these scenarios would be non-military. Appropriate diplomatic action and well-targeted humanitarian assistance can do much, and these need to be well funded. But we do not live in an ideal world, and the Department for International Development and the Foreign Office may fail to meet these challenges. One way or another, Britain's armed forces will become involved - in the best scenario as part of a UN peacekeeping force, but possibly having to take more drastic action to protect our security interests.


Climate change is already making the world more dangerous and no one knows how much more dangerous it will become. A Labour government which ignored this growing threat would be repeating the tragic mistake of George Lansbury in his opposition to rearmament in the 1930s.


Josh Arnold-Forster was special adviser to John Reid at the Ministry of Defence from 2005 to 2006

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This one should have gone in first - but Christ almighty - enough to make you shit yourself when you think about it... :o


Climate crisis: No time to lose


Tony McDermott click here for link


Published 29 January 2007


This week the New Statesman focuses on global warming. Starting here with Al Gore's adviser arguing the world must urgently face up to the global violence and conflict that would result from rapid climate change


On 2 February, a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, based on the work of 2,500 scientists, will give its strongest warning yet that we face potentially catastrophic climate disruption. The developed nations have barely begun to consider the impact of these changes, as President Bush's inadequate measures in a so-called "environmentally centred" State of the Union address made clear.


On these pages our specialist contributors spell out a stark message. Chaotic weather change poses grave threats to economic stability and social cohesion. If we act now mankind has a future. But it must be a radically different one.


Barbara Gunnell


There are some aspects of global warming that we have barely begun to understand. Yet climate change will trigger enormous physical and social changes, including water scarcity, population movement, pollution and natural disasters.


The security implications of this are unprecedented. They are enormous in scope, redefining what we think of as a global threat. We should prepare for climate change to intensify political conflict and violence. If we don't reposition policies to address the so far invisible threats posed by global warming - for example, the struggle for land in drought-stricken areas, or the displacement of people in coastal zones and small islands - the consequences could be catastrophic.


First, though, we must accept the science. We need to know what to expect. Some facts are well documented and widely acknowledged: increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as hurricanes and tornadoes; increased average surface and ocean temperatures; increased global rainfall from increased evaporation; greater variability in rainfall and temperature, including more frequent and severe floods and droughts; rising sea levels, exacerbated by melting continental ice fields; extended ranges and seasons for mosquitoes and other tropical-disease carriers.


Such changes may be gradual or happen abruptly - we don't yet know. However, scientists are increasingly concerned at the possibility of abrupt, catastrophic climate change. One scenario puts Britain's coastline seriously at threat - as David King, the UK government's chief scientific adviser, said of the melting of the Greenland ice sheet: "The maps of the world will have to be redrawn." A different scenario, a sudden shift in the Gulf Stream, would leave western Europe without the warm waters that keep its climate hospitable, thrusting it into a new ice age. Such physical changes could generate any number of adverse socio-economic impacts, including shortfalls in drinking water and water for irrigation, with risks of famine; sudden increases in the rates and geographic scope of malaria and other diseases; associated shifts in economic output and trade patterns; changes and large shifts in human migration patterns; and major human and economic losses resulting from extreme weather events such as hurricanes.


The security implications are highly significant. Climate change has already altered the distribution and quality of fresh water, arable land and coastal territory. Researchers have speculated that these changes could cause or prolong armed conflict. The link between the environment and armed conflict is well established. Competition for natural resources (such as diamonds, timber, oil, water and even narcotics) has motivated violence in such disparate places as Kuwait, Colombia and Afghanistan. Natural resources have helped finance insurgencies in Angola, Sierra Leone and elsewhere. Environmental degradation - for example, soil erosion and deforestation resulting from regional climate change - is likely to make such conflicts more likely.


The examples of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita should leave us in no doubt that natural disasters can be a great security threat. Many of those affected by such disasters become refugees or internally displaced persons. The experience of Hurricane Katrina was shocking enough, in an advanced economy with a highly developed infrastructure. But where a country lacks the capability or will to help affected popu lations, the security issues may be huge. Local and national government can be undermined; grievances increased; the rule of law itself threatened.


Severe impact


The consequences of a collapse of health services in some countries are a further consideration. A recent study by the World Health Organisation and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine estimates that global warming may already be responsible for upwards of 160,000 deaths a year from malaria and malnutrition. The authors of the study estimate that this number could double by 2020.


Climate-related security risks will affect some governments more than others. Three types of nation are particularly vulnerable: the least-developed, weak states and undemocratic countries. The poorest countries are the most likely to suffer. They lack the economic, governance or technical capabilities to adapt. They lack the capacity to prevent or react to humanitarian disasters such as floods. Developing nations in the tropics face the most severe consequences of climate change, including extreme weather, drought and disease.


Weak states - those with weak institutions of government, poor control over their borders, repressed populations or marginal economies - also run a high risk of being destabilised by climate change. Such failed or failing states have almost no capacity to respond to climate change or prevent it from triggering a large-scale humanitarian disaster.


We have seen this in Somalia, where drought, crop failure and subsequent state failure led to tens of thousands of deaths in the 1990s. Vulnerability to drought in the Darfur region of Sudan is now exacerbated by the country's ongoing internal conflict. Whether or not these droughts are attributable to climate change, the episodes indicate what one would expect with global warming.


Twenty years ago, the economist Amartya Sen noted that democracies - in which leaders have to be responsive to people who can vote them out of power - do not produce famines. The 20th century is full of examples of undemocratic regimes failing to protect populations at risk of drought, floods and other weather-related phenomena. Populations in undemocratic states will be particularly vulnerable to the humanitarian crises induced by climate change.


The United States causes 30.3 per cent of all global warming and must take a leading role in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. It can be done, but only with a leadership willing to accept the science and make saving the planet a priority.


Concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases are higher than they have ever been and these concentrations will climb for some time, even if a mitigation agenda succeeds. So, a two-part strategy is needed to deal with the adverse effects of climate change. First, we have to strengthen programmes for handling disasters and humanitarian crises in the countries that are already beginning to take climate change into account. But clearly, we must also focus effort on predicting and handling global-warming-related disasters in those poor, weak and undemocratic states where the consequences of sudden climate change will be most catastrophic.


If we are not to face a future that includes persistent armed conflict and violence, then the rich world's most significant policy challenge is to prevent catastrophic climate change.


Tony McDermott is international presenter for Al Gore's Climate Project

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Guest Knightrider

I say fuck it, we ARE doomed so lets carry on as we are, the earth can take it, she's got our arses anyway and any attempt to reverse the damage we have done is nothing more than a token gesture to be honest. We aren't killing the planet here, she eats ice ages, meteroites and polution for breakfast and anything we throw at her is nowt compared to what she has in store for us one day so have a party, buy a bigger car, use more energy, half fill that kettle, leave the lights on. What do you care, you're already gonna die anyway.


*lights up another tab*

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I say fuck it, we ARE doomed so lets carry on as we are, the earth can take it, she's got our arses anyway and any attempt to reverse the damage we have done is nothing more than a token gesture to be honest. We aren't killing the planet here, she eats ice ages, meteroites and polution for breakfast and anything we throw at her is nowt compared to what she has in store for us one day so have a party, buy a bigger car, use more energy, half fill that kettle, leave the lights on. What do you care, you're already gonna die anyway.


*lights up another tab*


* Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnddd Always look on the bright side of life... :lol:

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