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Could global warming cause war?

A new report warns that conflicts over water and food could intensify as the climate changes.

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"Many of the most severe effects of global warming are expected in regions where fragile governments are least capable of responding to them," Senator Durbin said in a story from the Inter Press Service news agency in Rome. "Failing to recognize and plan for the geopolitical consequences of global warming would be a serious mistake."

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Rep. Edward J. Markey (D) of Massachusetts, chairman of the newly formed House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, is proposing companion legislation that would fund climate change plans by the Department of Defense. On his website, Mr. Markey called for action based on the retired senior officers' report, saying:

"Global warming's impacts on natural resources and climate systems may create the fiercest battle our world has ever seen. If we don't cut pollution and head off severe global warming at the pass, we could see extreme geopolitical strain over decreased clean water, environmental refugees, and other impacts."

In a speech April 16 to BritishAmerican Business Inc., a trans-Atlantic business organization, British Foreign Secretary Beckett "praised the growing actions of US business executives and state politicians in addressing climate change, including California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who along with British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced plans last year to work toward a possible joint emissions-trading market," reported the Associated Press.

Ms. Beckett also told the business executives that clean technology is going to create a "massive" market opportunities:

"Those who move into that market first – first to design, first to patent, first to sell, first to invest, first to build a brand – have an unparalleled chance to make money."

The Bush administration has taken a less stark view of the security implications of greenhouse-gas emissions than many scientists and military officers.

But in a broader context, the administration has agreed that environmental issues could present national and international security challenges. In its 2006 National Security Strategy (PDF), the administration acknowledged that environmental destruction, including that caused by human activity, "may overwhelm the capacity of local authorities to respond, and may even overtax national militaries, requiring a larger international response."

"These challenges are not traditional national security concerns, such as the conflict of arms or ideologies. But if left unaddressed they can threaten national security."

These concerns are likely to keep growing and continue to be on the agendas at international meetings.

A strongly worded draft communiqué for June's G8 summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, warns that "tackling climate change is an imperative, not a choice," reported the British newspaper The Independent on Sunday. The draft says:

"Global warming caused largely by human activities is accelerating [and it] will seriously damage our common natural environment and severely weaken [the] global economy, with implications for international security."