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Climage change to induce insurgencies, genocide, guerrilla attacks, gang warfare and global terrorism, academic warns; reduce emissions now to avoid future conflicts

Posted by gmarkets on 22 September, 2007

In the future, that battlefield was likely to be complex and hazardous, according to Thomas Homer-Dixon in The Courier Mail (24/8/2007, p.31). Climate change would help produce the kind of military challenges that were difficult for today’s conventional forces to handle: insurgencies, genocide, guerrilla attacks, gang warfare and global terrorism.

Environmental stress compounds ethnic strife, poverty: In the 1990s, a research team he led at the University of Toronto examined links between various forms of en­vironmental stress in poor countries —cropland degradation, deforestation and scarcity of fresh water, for example — and violent conflict. In places as diverse as Haiti, Pakistan, the Philippines and South Africa, they found that severe environmental stress mul­tiplied the pain caused by such prob­lems as ethnic strife and poverty.

Elite control population through ownership of resources: Rural residents who depend on local natural resources for their livelihood become poorer, while powerful elites take control of— and extract exorbitant profits from — increasingly valuable land, forests and water.

Dudded poor rise up in rebellions: As these resources in the countryside dwindle, people join local rebellions against landowners and government officials. In mountainous areas of the Philip­pines, for instance, deforestation, soil erosion and soil nutrient depletion have increased poverty and helped drive peasants into the arms of the Commu­nist New People’s Army insurgency.

Clashes follow migration, search for resources: Other times, people migrate in large numbers to regions where resources seem more plentiful, only to fight with the people already there. Or they migrate to urban slums, where unem­ployed young men can be primed to join criminal gangs or radical political groups.

Cut CO2 to soothe conflict pressure points: Climate change will have similar effects, if nations fail to aggressively limit carbon dioxide emissions and develop technologies and institutions that allow people to cope with a warmer planet.

Reference: Thomas Homer-Dixon is director of the Trudeau Center for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Toronto. He is also the author of ‘The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal of Civilization’

The Courier Mail, 24/8/2007, p. 31

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