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Global Warming Causing Global Conflicts

Posted By Jennifer Buonantony On February 24, 2009 @ 12:30 am In Green Report / Media | No Comments

Photographer: s1lang (cc)

It is no secret that global warming is causing major changes. And while most Americans are not yet complaining about warmer winters and fewer rainy days, long term climate change forecasts a much greater impact on human interaction worldwide. And if you didn’t think the weather could affect your mood, you may want to consider the research relating warmer climates to the conflicts currently heating up the globe.

According to an article in New Scientist Magazine, for the first time researchers have identified a clear link between war and changing global temperatures. Furthermore, “Experts predict that current and future climate change may result in widespread global unrest and conflict.” Researchers point to the situations already at hand in places like Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Burundi and Chad. Climate change has created reduced rainfall and smaller areas of usable farmland. Water and food shortages, combined with continued population growth, has already resulted in violent conflict in these regions. In Sudan’s Darfur region, farm and grazing lands are being lost to desert, causing strife between herders and farmers.

Photographer: s1lang (cc)

Although seems overly simplistic to identify climate change as the single cause in such conflicts — especially when we’re talking about regions that are plagued by disease as well as ethical and religious disputes — I do believe it to a contributing factor. So, apparently, does a writer for The Christian Science Monitor, who reports that “government officials and aid workers agree that climate change certainly stretches already tense relations in these regions to the breaking point.”

When you look at climate change in relation to other factors such as poverty, disease, and politics, it makes sense that it’s a catalyst for violent conflict. When there is less land available for food production and less water available to supply farming and personal needs, competition for food and water can easily become critical for survival. And in regions where weapons are present, the violent eruptions are more prominent.

In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol attempted to make climate change a global issue by bringing nations across the globe together to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It called for stricter regulation and higher gas taxes to help reduce the global consumption of fossil fuels that raise the level of carbon dioxide in the air. However, many countries (including the U.S.) have recently opted out of this agreement, stating that there is not enough certainty over the causes of global warming to warrant the economic costs of switching to alternative energy sources.

Photographer: s1lang (cc)

Or in other words, until going green is economically efficient, the environment will continue to suffer.

In my opinion, no crystal ball is needed to predict the future. Although we may not be able to say for certain the extent to which climate change will cause conflict, the warning signs and possibilities are clear, and it is time for the nations of the world to get on the same page. If the conflicts in Africa are not convincing enough, we should heed the signs that have already begun to appear at home.

This month alone, the state of Georgia suffered record drought and water shorter. Lack of rain, scorching heat, and a drier than normal hurricane season, compounded by population and development growth, have already contributed to the loss of jobs, businesses, and income in the Atlanta region. Tensions have risen as government restrictions on outdoor watering, showering, and other water use have been put in place.

The Associated Press reports that heated debates have broken out among southern states, especially Florida, Alabama, and Georgia who have long disagreed on how to manage the region’s limited water supply and reservoirs. State and federal officials are facing legal showdowns as Georgia is trying to retain reservoir water, while Florida and Alabama depend on millions of gallons of water that is usually sent downstream to support Alabama’s dry conditions and Florida’s environmental concerns including protecting endangered mussels. Although this situation is unlikely to resort to physical violence, it is demonstrative of how climate change is already causing personal discomfort and legal tensions within our own country.

Although climate change may not be the sole cause of conflict and violent strife, it is clearly a contributing factor and its effects are widespread. Change is needed. And without it, it’s unlikely this storm will blow over.

Photographer: s1lang (cc)


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