Climate change will exacerbate international tensions, according to a grim assessment by the US intelligence community.
The impact of climate change on national security through 2040 is examined in the first-ever National Intelligence Estimate on Climate Change.
Countries will disagree on how to respond, with the consequences being felt most acutely in poorer countries that are least equipped to adapt.
The research also warns of the dangers of certain governments acting alone in deploying future geo-engineering technology.
The 27-page report represents the views of all 18 US intelligence organizations as a whole. It’s the first time they’ve looked forward to see what climate change implies for national security.
The study depicts a world that refuses to cooperate, resulting in hazardous rivalry and instability. It was released only days before President Joe Biden attends the COP26 climate meeting in Glasgow, which will seek worldwide agreement next month.
It cautions that countries would strive to safeguard their economy by gaining a competitive edge in the development of new technologies. With more than 20 countries dependent on fossil fuels for more than 50% of total export income, some governments may reject the impulse to act.
“A drop in fossil fuel earnings would put even greater burden on Middle Eastern governments, which are expected to be hit worse by climate change,” the research adds.
It cautions that the effects of climate change would soon be felt all across the world.
The Effect On Poorer Countries
Eleven nations and two areas are identified by the US intelligence community as being particularly vulnerable in terms of energy, food, water, and health security. They are often poorer and less adaptable, putting them at greater danger of instability and internal strife. Droughts and heat waves might put a strain on utilities like energy supply.
Afghanistan, Burma, India, Pakistan, and North Korea are five of the 11 nations in South and East Asia, whereas Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, and Nicaragua are four countries in Central America and the Caribbean. Colombia and Iraq are the remaining countries. Central Africa, as well as small Pacific island nations, are in jeopardy.
Instability might spill over, notably in the shape of refugee movements, putting strain on the US southern border and causing additional humanitarian needs, according to experts.
The Arctic is likely to be one, as ice melts and makes it more accessible. As military move in, this may offer up new shipping routes and access to fish sources, but it also increases the danger of mistake.
Water availability will also be a subject of contention. Around 60% of surface water resources in the Middle East and North Africa cross borders. Water has always been a source of contention between Pakistan and India. Meanwhile, the Mekong River basin might exacerbate tensions between China, Cambodia, and Vietnam, according to the research.
The Implication Of Future Technology
A country’s decision to utilize geo-engineering to combat climate change is another source of danger.
This entails employing cutting-edge technology, such as releasing reflecting particles into the high stratosphere to simulate the cooling effects of a volcanic eruption or utilizing aerosols to chill seas in specific areas.
However, if one country acts alone, it may merely transfer the problem to another location, causing resentment among other nations that have been negatively harmed or are unable to intervene.
These approaches are being studied by researchers in a number of nations, including Australia, China, India, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as numerous EU members, although there are few laws or regulations in place.
According to the research, there are various methods to avert this grim future. Some of the breakthrough technologies include the widely recognized usage of geo-engineering. Another example is a natural calamity that serves as a catalyst for better cooperation.
The research indicates that climate change is now a critical component of security planning, and that it will exacerbate existing issues while also creating new ones.
“Governments are increasingly recognising that climate change is impacting the national security environment like never before,” said Erin Sikorsky, head of the Center for Climate and Security and a former member of the National Intelligence Council.
“Climate considerations cannot be separated from other security concerns, such as competition with China, which faces compounding climate risks such as rising sea levels affecting millions of people in coastal cities, flooding in its interior threatening energy infrastructure, and desertification and migrating fish stocks undermining its food security.”
The latest intelligence assessment lays out the enormous challenges that lie ahead. But the real question is what officials will do in response to their spies’ warning.