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Global Warming Is A National Security Risk. Why Don't We Treat It Like One?

12/05/2017 16:28
Jukkisjupi via Getty Images

Here are the facts: Climate change kills more people than terrorism. It has worsened the war in Syria and it will soon create a refugee crisis that army generals have called "the greatest threat to the 21st century."

Climate change isn't just an inconvenience, it's a global security threat.

So why aren't governments treating it like one? The UK is in the middle of a historic general election, yet climate change has barely been whispered by any of the major candidates. And the president of the United States wants to rip up the landmark Paris agreement. Why?

The simple answer is that we're talking about climate change all wrong. We position global warming almost exclusively as a conservation problem. We talk about 'saving the planet' and shrinking ice caps. And that might appeal to some, but it isn't enough to sway sceptic politicians and giant corporations.

If we're to affect real change, we have to shift the perspective. And that means looking at climate change as a devastating national security threat.

There's a good reason for this assessment. Climate change has already been cited by military expects as a key contributor to global conflicts. The war in Syria, the Arab Spring and terrorist uprisings in Sub-Saharan Africa have all been exacerbated by climate change.

Rising temperatures cause droughts and food scarcity. It sparks conflict over resources and triggers the mass movement of people. It even feeds terrorism that will increasingly spill out beyond national borders.

This is only going to get worse. When global warming reaches 2 degree celsius (the 'point of no return,') it will trigger an unprecedented refugee crisis. Rising sea levels will wipe out low-lying cities and destroy food resources. Where are those populations going to go?

Huge swathes of refugees will move from Africa and the Middle East to Europe. Those affected in Central America will move to the US. It will dwarf the recent Syrian refugee crisis and the national security risks that came with it.

As for climate-related disasters, we are already funneling huge military resources into disaster relief. After a recent typhoon in the Philippines, for example, the US deployed 14,000 soldiers to respond to the crisis. It's impossible, and foolish, to disconnect global warming and military funding.

We need to start talking about climate change differently. Sure, the conservation issues still matter. Ice caps are still shrinking and ice on the mountains is retreating. But if we really want the powers-that-be to take global warming seriously, we need to reframe the debate to national security.

Let's talk about the uncontrollable migration that will spill out of the developing world. Let's talk about the impending conflicts and civil wars that will break out when food and water supplies disappear.

Perhaps these issues will force Donald Trump to rethink his position on climate change before he rips up the landmark Paris agreement.

Connect with Ben at benjamin-brown.uk

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