Posted by: Chasy | 07/07/2009

Climate change and security

One of my current interests is the impact of climate change on global security. Just recently, OxFam released a report on the impact of climate change on poverty and development. Below is a summary of the issues raised in the report, taken from AlertNet:

* HUNGER: New research based on interviews with farmers in fifteen countries across the world reveals how once-distinct seasons are shifting and rains are now disappearing. Poor farmers from Bangladesh to Uganda and Nicaragua, no longer able to rely on generations of farming experience, are facing failed harvest after failed harvest. Rice and maize, two of the world’s most important crops on which hundreds of millions depend, particularly in Asia, the Americas and Africa, face significant drops in yields even under even milder climate change scenarios. Maize yields are forecast to drop by 15 per cent or more by 2020 in much of sub-Saharan Africa and in most of India. Scientists in the region are now saying that Africa should prepare to see a 50 per cent drop in all cereal yields by 2080.

* HEALTH: Diseases such as malaria and dengue fever that were once geographically bound are creeping to new areas where populations lack immunity or the knowledge and healthcare infrastructure to cope with them. It is estimated that climate change has contributed to an average of 150,000 more deaths from disease per year since the 1970s, with over half of those happening in Asia and 85 % of them are children.

* LABOUR: Rising temperatures will make it impossible for people to work at the same rate on hot summer days without serious health impacts with huge ramifications for laborers paid by the hour and the wider economy. Cities such as Delhi could see a drop in worker productivity by as much as 30 percent.

* WATER: Water supplies are becoming so acutely challenged that several major cities including Kathmandu and La Paz which are dependent on the Himalayan and Andes glaciers may soon be unable to function.

* DISASTERS: Disasters including mega fires and storms are on the rise and could triple by 2030. A record $165 billion was lost in the 2005 hurricane season alone and the insurance industry says that climate change will make the situation worse, particularly for poor people who have no access to insurance.

* DISPLACEMENT: An estimated 26 million people have been displaced as a direct result of climate change and each year a million more are displaced by weather related events. Island communities from Vanuatu, Tuvalu and the Bay of Bengal have already been forced to move because of sea level rise.

*TRADE: Across the world the effects of climate change on agriculture will be grossly unbalanced. It is estimated that whilst US agricultural profits are set to rise by $1.3bn per year because of climate change, sub Saharan Africa alone will lose $2bn per year as the viability of just one crop, maize, declines.

Considering these points, one would think it was obvious that leaders of developed countries would take climate change seriously, as it not only creates an extreme humanitarian crisis, but the flow on would affect their own countries, at the very least, in terms of trade. However, it appears they ignore it at their peril:

Many scientists are now skeptical that the world can limit global warming to 2�C because they do not believe that politicians are willing to agree the necessary cuts in carbon emissions, the report says. Two degrees is considered to be “economically acceptable” to rich countries however it would still mean a devastating future for 660 million people.

The resentment to stem from this seems inevitable. If one half of the world stands back and watches while the other half dies, surely the survivors would see those in the developed world as responsible. It’s no secret that poverty has been considered a breeding ground for rebel groups and terrorism for many years, yet is virtually ignored by government after government.

The impact of climate change on the lives of those in developing countries would surely continue the trend, yet we get told that we, the developed nations rich with resources and trade, can’t afford any less that a pissweak 5% cut in carbon emissions.

You would think, considering the points above, that would sound ludicrous to anyone. Apparently keeping the votes of those few who fall for the ‘fiscally conservative’ line is much more important than making sense.

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