The impact of climate change on international security is enormous and governments need to have a comparable financial commitment for combating global warming as they do for war.
A survey by the Pew Research Centre showed that only 30% of people list global warming as a priority for 2009[i] whereas 76% cite terrorism as a top priority. Just the word “terrorism” alone strikes fear in to the heart of the general public, sparks a mass media frenzy and causes the government to leap into action. “Climate change” and “global warming” however, evoke feelings of mild concern and vague mumblings of “um yes I must reduce my carbon footprint” but generally provokes responses of apathy and general indifference. There is the misconception that we are disconnected from the consequences of climate change but global warming isn’t just melting the ice caps and endangering polar bears. The average global temperature rise of 0.6 degrees kills 150,000[ii] people each year – more than 350[iii] times the number of people killed annually by transnational terrorists.
The threat posed by climate change, is not just comparable to that of terrorism, it surpasses it. Drastic changes in climate could act as a catalyst for global anarchy. Analysis by the Pentagon on the effects of climate change on global stability, indicated that competition for diminishing energy resources will cause “Disruption and conflict …endemic features of life… warfare would define human life”[iv].’
A recent study entitled “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change”[v], predicts that “Projected climate change will seriously exacerbate already marginal living standards in many Asian, African, and Middle Eastern nations, causing widespread political instability and the likelihood of failed states…. The chaos that results can be an incubator of civil strife, genocide, and the growth of terrorism.” Dick Durbin, assistant US Senate majority leader, has expressed[vi] ……..“For years, too many of us have viewed global warming as simply an environmental or economic issue. We now need to consider it as a security concern.”
Climate change is a matter of international security and the need for commitment to a low-carbon future within western governments is paramount. The Princeton Environmental Institute found that the world’s richest half billion people accounted for just 7% of the world’s population but a staggering 50% of carbon emissions[vii] and it is time for western governments to take responsibility. The US alone spent $6,000 per second[viii] on the war during the Bush Administration; a total of more than $914,000,000,000[ix] has been spent to date. The projected total US spending on the Iraq war could cover the investments in renewable power generation for the ENTIRE WORLD for the next 20 years[x].
When the West embarked on the “War on Terror” it was in the hope that it would protect people, we must realise that in taking action to prevent climate change we will not only safeguard our planet, we will safeguard humanity