Where climate change meets national security

EU report adds urgency to old warnings, NATO to take up discussion next.

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Last year, a group of retired American military officers warned that, left unchecked, climate change could lead to international instability.

The problems could include refugees driven by drought, loss of food supplies, and rising sea levels: They might include violent conflicts, these generals and admirals said. The warning was an early sign from senior military leaders that climate change could have a serious national-security dimension.

In a report to be presented at a summit of the 27-nation European Union in Brussels on Thursday, two top EU officials will add urgency. The essence of their report: "Climate change is a threat multiplier which exacerbates existing trends, tensions, and instability," says a story in Britain's The Guardian newspaper. It continues:

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Water supplies in the Middle East could be a major issue if temperatures were to continue increasing. The Financial Times quotes the EU paper:

It's not just poorer countries that could generate conflict, say the report's authors, EU foreign-policy chief Javier Solana and EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

Nations are already vying for energy resources at the poles, Reuters reports:

The EU report is echoed by think tank studies.

Writing in the Winter 2007-'08 issue of The Wilson Quarterly, John Podesta and Peter Ogden of the Center for American Progress in Washington write that "these crises are all the more dangerous because they are interwoven and self-perpetuating: Water shortages can lead to food shortages, which can lead to conflict over remaining resources, which can drive human migration, which can create new food shortages in new regions."

While most wealthy nations will not experience internal migration due to global warming, Messrs. Podesta and Ogden continue, "… the United States will experience border stress due to the se­vere effects of climate change in parts of Mexico and the Caribbean."

They add:

A group of experts, including former Central Intelligence Agency director R. James Woolsey, concluded in a paper for The Center for a New American Security that "we are already living in an age of consequences when it comes to climate change and its impact on national security, both broadly and narrowly defined." Rising sea levels and the disappearance of low-lying coastal lands "could conceivably lead to massive migrations – potentially involving hundreds of millions of people," the authors write.

They continue:

A summit of NATO leaders in Bucharest, Hungary, next month will discuss the problem for the first time, The Guardian reported.

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