Ahead of a political event in London at the beginning of December, a number of senior military figures from around the world were quoted by The Guardian discussing the difficult problems that will be accompanying worsening climate change over the coming years.
These problems include an ever worsening global food and water security situation, which will lead directly to mass migration on a scale not seen in modern history (take a look back at the movement of Germanic peoples into Europe in the late Roman period or the various mass migrations into Europe from the Middle East and Near East during the late Bronze Age Collapse for an idea of what’s in store).
A member of the US Department of State’s foreign affairs policy board, and also the CEO of the American Security Project, Brig Gen Stephen Cheney, commented: “Climate change could lead to a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions. We’re already seeing migration of large numbers of people around the world because of food scarcity, water insecurity and extreme weather, and this is set to become the new normal. Climate change impacts are also acting as an accelerant of instability in parts of the world on Europe’s doorstep, including the Middle East and Africa. There are direct links to climate change in the Arab Spring, the war in Syria, and the Boko Haram terrorist insurgency in sub-Saharan Africa.”
Cheney continued: “Countries are going to pay for climate change one way or another. The best way to pay for it is by tackling the root causes of climate change and cutting greenhouse gas emissions. If we do not, the national security impacts will be increasingly costly and challenging.”
These comments were echoed to some degree by those of the chairman of the Global Military Advisory Council on climate change, and also former military adviser to the president of Bangladesh, Maj Gen Munir Muniruzzaman: “Climate change is the greatest security threat of the 21st century. We’re going to see refugee problems on an unimaginable scale, potentially above 30 million people.”
The last bit is a reference to the fact that much of Bangladesh is only slightly above sea level. With rising sea levels, much of the country’s population will be displaced.
Where will these displaced peoples go? What will they eat? What sorts of conflicts will be set off by their movements? What sort of lazy scapegoating and projection (both on the side of non-displaced and also displaced peoples) will we see? What sorts of cultural conflicts can we expect?
A look back at earlier, similarly tumultuous periods of time would be the thing to do, to develop a sense of how things will likely play out (basic, common patterns). But this doesn’t paint a pretty picture.
Interesting times ahead.
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