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   Author  Topic: RE: virus: The Coming Resource Wars  (Read 1247 times)

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Rate Blunderov

"We think in generalities, we live in details"

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RE: virus: The Coming Resource Wars
« on: 2006-03-08 03:50:04 »
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[Blunderov] Why global warming is happening and whether anything can, or
even should, be done about it seems increasingly academic. It is a fait
accompli and it doesn't look pretty at all. Looming privation, as Bill has
reminded us on occasion, is the classic recipe for UTism and war.

Not, of course, that this is news exactly; but seemingly Iraq and Dafur are
but two horrible harbingers of yet more to come.

The phrase "and its official" invites reflection, or so it seems to me.
Implicit is the perception that we are already in the grip of an implacable
fate. And that the game seems has become one of last man standing wins. I'm
not too sure that this is really true, perhaps though, it is just plain old

Best regards.


The Coming Resource Wars
Michael T. Klare
March 07, 2006

Michael T. Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at
Hampshire College and the author of Resource Wars and Blood and Oil, both
available in paperback from Owl Books.

It's official: the era of resource wars is upon us.  In a major London
address, British Defense Secretary John Reid warned that global climate
change and dwindling natural resources are combining to increase the
likelihood of violent conflict over land, water and energy.  Climate change,
he indicated, "will make scarce resources, clean water, viable agricultural
land even scarcer"-and this will "make the emergence of violent conflict
more rather than less likely."

Although not unprecedented, Reid's prediction of an upsurge in resource
conflict is significant both because of his senior rank and the vehemence of
his remarks.  "The blunt truth is that the lack of water and agricultural
land is a significant contributory factor to the tragic conflict we see
unfolding in Darfur," he declared.  "We should see this as a warning sign."

Resource conflicts of this type are most likely to arise in the developing
world, Reid indicated, but the more advanced and affluent countries are not
likely to be spared the damaging and destabilizing effects of global climate
change.  With sea levels rising, water and energy becoming increasingly
scarce and prime agricultural lands turning into deserts, internecine
warfare over access to vital resources will become a global phenomenon.

Reid's speech, delivered at the prestigious Chatham House in London
(Britain's equivalent of the Council on Foreign Relations), is but the most
recent expression of a growing trend in strategic circles to view
environmental and resource effects-rather than political orientation and
ideology-as the most potent source of armed conflict in the decades to come.
With the world population rising, global consumption rates soaring, energy
supplies rapidly disappearing and climate change eradicating valuable
farmland, the stage is being set for persistent and worldwide struggles over
vital resources.  Religious and political strife will not disappear in this
scenario, but rather will be channeled into contests over valuable sources
of water, food and energy.

Prior to Reid's address, the most significant expression of this outlook was
a report prepared for the U.S. Department of Defense by a California-based
consulting firm in October 2003.  Entitled "An Abrupt Climate Change
Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security," the
report warned that global climate change is more likely to result in sudden,
cataclysmic environmental events than a gradual (and therefore manageable)
rise in average temperatures.  Such events could include a substantial
increase in global sea levels, intense storms and hurricanes and
continent-wide "dust bowl" effects.  This would trigger pitched battles
between the survivors of these effects for access to food, water, habitable
land and energy supplies.

"Violence and disruption stemming from the stresses created by abrupt
changes in the climate pose a different type of threat to national security
than we are accustomed to today," the 2003 report noted.  "Military
confrontation may be triggered by a desperate need for natural resources
such as energy, food and water rather than by conflicts over ideology,
religion or national honor."

Until now, this mode of analysis has failed to command the attention of top
American and British policymakers. For the most part, they insist that
ideological and religious differences-notably, the clash between values of
tolerance and democracy on one hand and extremist forms of Islam on the
other-remain the main drivers of international conflict.  But Reid's speech
at Chatham House suggests that a major shift in strategic thinking may be
under way. Environmental perils may soon dominate the world security agenda.

This shift is due in part to the growing weight of evidence pointing to a
significant human role in altering the planet's basic climate systems.
Recent studies showing the rapid shrinkage of the polar ice caps, the
accelerated melting of North American glaciers, the increased frequency of
severe hurricanes and a number of other such effects all suggest that
dramatic and potentially harmful changes to the global climate have begun to
occur. More importantly, they conclude that human behavior-most importantly,
the burning of fossil fuels in factories, power plants, and motor
vehicles-is the most likely cause of these changes.  This assessment may
not have yet penetrated the White House and other bastions of
head-in-the-sand thinking, but it is clearly gaining ground among scientists
and thoughtful analysts around the world.

For the most part, public discussion of global climate change has tended to
describe its effects as an environmental problem-as a threat to safe water,
arable soil, temperate forests, certain species and so on.  And, of course,
climate change is a potent threat to the environment; in fact, the greatest
threat imaginable.  But viewing climate change as an environmental problem
fails to do justice to the magnitude of the peril it poses.  As Reid's
speech and the 2003 Pentagon study make clear, the greatest danger posed by
global climate change is not the degradation of ecosystems per se, but
rather the disintegration of entire human societies, producing wholesale
starvation, mass migrations and recurring conflict over resources.

"As famine, disease, and weather-related disasters strike due to abrupt
climate change," the Pentagon report notes, "many countries' needs will
exceed their carrying capacity"-that is, their ability to provide the
minimum requirements for human survival.  This "will create a sense of
desperation, which is likely to lead to offensive aggression" against
countries with a greater stock of vital resources.  "Imagine eastern
European countries, struggling to feed their populations with a falling
supply of food, water, and energy, eyeing Russia, whose population is
already in decline, for access to its grain, minerals, and energy supply."

Similar scenarios will be replicated all across the planet, as those without
the means to survival invade or migrate to those with greater
abundance-producing endless struggles between resource "haves" and

It is this prospect, more than anything, that worries John Reid.  In
particular, he expressed concern over the inadequate capacity of poor and
unstable countries to cope with the effects of climate change, and the
resulting risk of state collapse, civil war and mass migration.  "More than
300 million people in Africa currently lack access to safe water," he
observed, and "climate change will worsen this dire situation"-provoking
more wars like Darfur.  And even if these social disasters will occur
primarily in the developing world, the wealthier countries will also be
caught up in them, whether by participating in peacekeeping and humanitarian
aid operations, by fending off unwanted migrants or by fighting for access
to overseas supplies of food, oil, and minerals.

When reading of these nightmarish scenarios, it is easy to conjure up images
of desperate, starving people killing one another with knives, staves and
clubs-as was certainly often the case in the past, and could easily prove to
be so again.  But these scenarios also envision the use of more deadly
weapons.  "In this world of warring states," the 2003 Pentagon report
predicted, "nuclear arms proliferation is inevitable."  As oil and natural
gas disappears, more and more countries will rely on nuclear power to meet
their energy needs-and this "will accelerate nuclear proliferation as
countries develop enrichment and reprocessing capabilities to ensure their
national security."

Although speculative, these reports make one thing clear: when thinking
about the calamitous effects of global climate change, we must emphasize its
social and political consequences as much as its purely environmental
effects.  Drought, flooding and storms can kill us, and surely will-but so
will wars among the survivors of these catastrophes over what remains of
food, water and shelter.  As Reid's comments indicate, no society, however
affluent, will escape involvement in these forms of conflict.

We can respond to these predictions in one of two ways: by relying on
fortifications and military force to provide some degree of advantage in the
global struggle over resources, or by taking meaningful steps to reduce the
risk of cataclysmic climate change.

No doubt there will be many politicians and pundits-especially in this
country-who will tout the superiority of the military option, emphasizing
America's preponderance of strength.  By fortifying our borders and
sea-shores to keep out unwanted migrants and by fighting around the world
for needed oil supplies, it will be argued, we can maintain our privileged
standard of living for longer than other countries that are less well
endowed with instruments of power.  Maybe so.  But the grueling,
inconclusive war in Iraq and the failed national response to Hurricane
Katrina show just how ineffectual such instruments can be when confronted
with the harsh realities of an unforgiving world.  And as the 2003 Pentagon
report reminds us, "constant battles over diminishing resources" will
"further reduce [resources] even beyond the climatic effects."

Military superiority may provide an illusion of advantage in the coming
struggles over vital resources, but it cannot protect us against the ravages
of global climate change.  Although we may be somewhat better off than the
people in Haiti and Mexico, we, too, will suffer from storms, drought and
flooding.  As our overseas trading partners descend into chaos, our vital
imports of food, raw materials and energy will disappear as well.  True, we
could establish military outposts in some of these places to ensure the
continued flow of critical materials-but the ever-increasing price in blood
and treasure required to pay for this will eventually exceed our means and
destroy us.  Ultimately, our only hope of a safe and secure future lies in
substantially reducing our emissions of greenhouse gases and working with
the rest of the world to slow the pace of global climate change.

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