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Climate Crisis Is Increasing Insecurity

By Farooque Chowdhury

31 March, 2014

Climate crisis generated increased insecurity is now boldly visible. IPCC, the global scientists’ panel on climate change, for the first time, has connected climate crisis to possibilities of conflicts.

The increasing insecurity is felt by the dominating global system and in concerned societies/economies.

Climate crisis has long ago reached the realm of geopolitics. Competition, geostrategy, and geo-tactical aspects are subtexts of climate crisis negotiations. A part of capital has already accepted the fact of climate crisis while a part is still busy with its dirty denial doings.

It’s the crook part of capital playing conservative. It’s the conservative character: deny changing reality, attempt to move backward, not only deny science, but also attempt to prove science wrong. Ultimately it comes to compromises or crashes down itself, a foolish consequence.

But geopolitics can’t rely on conservatism as reality is always changing, socioeconomic forces are confronting, and new forces are either emerging or changing position.

Or, geopolitics resorting to conservatism invites unhappy fate.

Not only geopolitics, security is also related to climate crisis. Actually, it’s the security of world powers that concerns the “guardians” of world affairs. Spheres of influence, countries/regions required for geopolitical “game”, are related to security concern of the world masters.

Citing the latest IPCC draft report AP on March 30, 2014 said: The climate crisis will complicate and worsen existing global security problems, such as civil wars, strife between countries and refugees. It will turn the reality more dangerous. Fights over resources including water and energy, hunger and extreme weather will destabilize the world.

Seven years ago, the Yokohama datelined AP report said, IPCC didn’t mention security issues. For the past seven years, social science has found more links between climate and conflict. Now, there are hundreds of studies on climate crisis and conflict.

The US department of defense in its 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) has also related climate crisis to national security, terrorist activity, frequency, scale, and complexity of future missions, defense support to civil authorities, undermining the capacity of domestic installations. (Steve Horn, March 5, 2014, “Pentagon Calls Climate Change Impacts Threat Multipliers, Could Enable Terrorism”)

It focused on the pressure on international governance that global warming will apply. “The pressures”, the report said, “caused by climate change will influence resource competition while placing additional burdens on economies, societies, and governance institutions around the world.” (ibid)

Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), an NGO in the UK, in its report The Gathering Storm: climate change, security and conflict identified climate crisis as a possible “tipping point” for conflict, particularly in already fragile, post-war states.

Inaction on climate crisis, the report said, is the world’s “gravest threat to human and national security”. It cited warnings by military experts: Violence could escalate as a result of ever scarcer resources.

The issue has been raised by others also. About two years ago, the African Union considered climate crisis a security threat. About a year ago, G-8 ministers had, broadly, the same opinion. Last week, the US and EU said climate crisis is a threat to security and economy. The crisis, the two powers consider, is a “risk to global security”.

“[M]ilitary experts”, writes Sophie Yeo, “have reinforced that climate change could pose a threat to national security.” Retired US Brigadier General Chris King compared climate crisis to a “100 year war” without an exit strategy. (“Climate change is world’s ‘gravest security threat’ – report”, March 27, 2014)

Sir David King, the UK’s special representative on climate change, told MPs that climate change was an issue that needed to be “carefully addressed” by militaries across the world, due to their dependence on oil in conflict situations. (ibid.)

Militaries in a number of countries, as press reports say, have already started taking steps to face the crisis: a security risk. The steps range from relocation of bases to shifting of energy source, like, from hydrocarbon fuel to solar power.

No doubt, the steps will not be limited into the area of logistics. These will also cover areas of doctrine, strategy, tactics, training.

Now, the US president and EU leaders find, as the joint statement following their recent meeting said, climate crisis is going to make sustainable economic growth in their two regions an impossible task, and sustainable economic growth is not isolated from security. Now, they have “strong determination” to conclude a proposed UN climate deal in 2015.

One can expect a new US-EU climate crisis strategy facing the rest of the world. The two powers will be “intensifying their cooperation” in climate diplomacy. They will have their joint bargaining chips for the periphery in areas of trade, growth, and development. It will be the old game with a new name: green growth, green trade, green export, green development, green aid and green diplomacy for conflict resolution.

But as the basic structure, regimes, pattern and relations will not be changed a cynic might add: green exploitation, green plunder, green appropriation, green loan, green interest, green dominance, green aggression and green intervention – a green show of force.

“Green” will be there in the world system, and all the old regimes of trade, loan, the so-called development assistance/aid and “cooperation” based on a dominance-subservience relation will be there. The US-EU-Japan triad, as Samir Amin identifies, is there occupying the global throne.

Questions of security/insecurity thus move in two spheres: in the sphere of dominating powers and in the sphere of dominated societies/economies.

Security/insecurity of the dominating powers’ is in two areas: within their societies and in the sphere of their dominance.

With increased vulnerabilities in many areas, death, hunger, destruction and damage (cities, infrastructure, utilities, etc.), drought, heatwave, flood, water shortage (mainly in cities and for irrigation), scarcity of food (fish, livestock, etc,), poverty and poor, the “key risks” as the IPCC identifies, economies in the periphery face the question of security/insecurity from within and from outside: the dominating powers and their wars, aggressions, interventions.

People face insecurity as food and water securities are threatened, their livelihood turns vulnerable, they face uncertain destination. The increasing insecurity in spheres of life and livelihood cuts down their democratic and human rights.

Mismanaged water resource is one example.

Tension and conflicts at regional level lurch around with increased competition for receding water from trans-boundary rivers. It damages in economy, displaces population, and ignites war.

Already a number of river basins in Asia had/are having the experience. The 251-kilometer Jordan River, the 2,700-kilometer Euphrates, the longest river in Southwestern Asia, the 2,540-kilometer Amu Darya, the longest river in Central Asia flow with tension and conflict.

Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan’s competition for control of the Amu Darya water “developed” to Uzbek troops, as was reported, taking control of water installations in Turkmenistan.

Parts of South Asia also face competition for water.

At the seemingly “heart” of the problems are intensified farming, increased irrigation, new hydroelectric dams, increased demand for fodder, etc. But is there any connection between these problems that are affecting millions of people and creating a security situation?

A closer look will find a common pattern: on the one hand, broadly, capitalist mode of production, and on the other, victim of the capitalist mode of production. The latter is the “product” of the mode of production.

The system is ever “hungry” for expansion; and it’s anarchic; and it’s based on narrowly defined self-interest. Its type of production creates causes for deterioration of nature, biodiversity and climate. Deterioration of climate affects nature, biodiversity and living condition of all life, not only human life. It’s like a multiplying act.

Capital’s expansionist hunger devours, defaces, destroys and demolishes everything around; and these in turn creates pressure on land including forest, soil, grazing land, water, mountains, glaciers, population, etc.; and these in turn again create “pressure” on climate; and the security situation emerges.

At the same time, capital’s expansion requires war, aggression, intervention as capital requires “occupation”, in many forms, and “security” that “induces” use of force. The force requires unhindered movement to any corner of the world, desert or deep in forest, and the unhindered movement again requires force.

This pattern – war, show and use of force, permanent presence of force in parts of the world and unhindered movement of force – taxes nature and climate. Again, a “contribution” to climate deterioration is made by the system.

The extent and level of deterioration turns immense and serious when an entire economy bases its expansion on war – real and imaginary.

Inefficient use of resources – wastage – by the system presses nature and climate. The wastage occurs in production, distribution, manipulation, war, war efforts and war postures.

“At present, around 168 countries are estimated to suffer from land degradation, costing the global economy an estimated US$ 40 billion a year. Global soil erosion exceeds new soil formation by as much as 23 billion tonnes per year, or 1% of soil stock, a process described by some scientists as the ‘skinning’ of the planet.” (The Economics of Land Degradation Initiative study) However, the study finds, “crop yields worth US$ 1.4 trillion could be grown if sustainable land management practices are introduced around the world.”

“Up to 1.3 billion people may be exposed to longer-term food insecurity in 2050 in low-income economies (mainly in Africa), if their economic development doesn’t allow them to afford productivity improvements, cropland expansion and/or imports from other countries.” (Marianela Fader, Dieter Gerten, Michael Krause, Wolfgang Lucht and Wolfgang Cramer, “Spatial decoupling of agricultural production and consumption: quantifying dependences of countries on food imports due to domestic land and water constraints”, Environmental Research Letters.)

The study found: “A number of developed countries including the UK, the Netherlands and Japan are already unable to meet the food requirements of their populations. This reliance on imports looks set to become worse as population levels rise. However, unlike the developing countries, these nations will probably be able to buy their way out of the problem.” Currently, says the study, only 950 million people (16% of world population) use the opportunities of international trade for covering their demand of agricultural products.

The reality, as the study found: Even, countries considered advanced economies are facing the problem of food. And, the question: The rich can buy, import, food, but what shall happen to the poor?

These are only a few examples from thousands and thousands of inefficient use and distribution of resources, and inefficient use of resources is “party” to generation of inequality and disparity, and it’s capitalism that’s sustaining this inefficient, unequal system.

Today’s climate crisis thus has been created by the capitalist system, and it is aggravating the crisis with each passing day. The crisis, like Frankenstein’s monster, is now threatening the system, the creator of the crisis. The question of security/insecurity/threats is a burning example.

Why doesn’t the system change the process that has emerged as a threat even to its rule? It can’t.

Changing the process is the ultimate threat to the capitalist system as the step will accelerate its downfall – a change in the entire regime. So, the only alternative available to the system is manipulation, a conflict with reality.

Manipulation of facts, science, public opinion and public “mind” are indivisible part of the world capitalist system. The system’s entire publicity and propaganda exposes this. Climate crisis politics and climate crisis diplomacy of the system are part of the manipulation mechanism. But the magnitude of the threat being created by the crisis is compelling the capitalist system to identify the reality, and it’s, the insecurity situation, threatening people everywhere.

Farooque Chowdhury is Dhaka-based freelancer.



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