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Climate change a ‘catalyst for conflict’



Climate change is already acting as a catalyst for conflict and poses a serious risk to security, according to a strongly worded “call for action” from a panel of former American generals and admirals.

The Centre for Naval Analysis Corporation’s (CNA) Military Advisory Board report concludes that the impacts of climate change are increasing instability around the world, even in the Arctic. 

It suggests that droughts caused by warming in the Middle East and Africa are leading to conflicts over food and water, exacerbating pre-existing tensions and creating an environment in which extremism and revolutionary influences can prosper.

In other regions, rising sea levels will create millions of new refugees and migrants, while increasingly frequent extreme whether events are expected to stretch the US military.

Meanwhile, in the melting Arctic nations will compete to exploit newly accessible resources, threatening not just the environment but also security. 

Overall, the report upgrades climate change from a “threat multiplier” – as it was labeled in CNA’s 2007 report and a recent Department of Defense review – to a catalyst for conflict.

“Political posturing and budgetary woes cannot be allowed to inhibit discussion and debate over what so many believe to be a salient national security concern for our nation,” the report’s authors say.

“Time and tide wait for no one.”

In a foreword, former US secretary of homeland security Michael Chertoff and former secretary of defence Leon Panetta say the report serves as “a bipartisan call for action.” 

In an interview with the New York Times, the US secretary of State John Kerry said that the report would influence America’s foreign policy.

“Tribes are killing each other over water today,” he said.

“Think of what happens if you have massive dislocation, or the drying up of the waters of the Nile, of the major rivers in China and India. The intelligence community takes it seriously, and it’s translated into action.” 

Photo: DVIDSHUB via Flickr

Further reading:

World Bank head warns of conflict and social unrest due to climate change

The IPCC’s stark warning: no nation will be untouched by climate change

Crimea crisis could raise global food prices, triggering social unrest

Pentagon warns terrorism could be exacerbated due to climate change

Climate change may have contributed to Syrian civil war