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Terror in the Weather Forecast

Thomas Homer-Dixon, NY Times
Does climate change threaten international peace and security? The British government thinks it does. As this month’s head of the United Nations Security Council, Britain convened a debate on the matter last Tuesday. One in four United Nations member countries joined the discussion – a record for this kind of thematic debate. Countries rich and poor, large and small, and from all continents – Bangladesh, Ghana, Japan, Mexico, much of Europe and, most poignantly, a large number of small island states endangered by rising seas – recognized the security implications of climate change. Some other developing countries – Brazil, Cuba and India and most of the biggest producers of fossil fuels and carbon dioxide, including China, Qatar and Russia – either questioned the very idea of such a link or argued that the Security Council is not the right place to talk about it.

But these skeptics are wrong. Evidence is fast accumulating that, within our children’s lifetimes, severe droughts, storms and heat waves caused by climate change could rip apart societies from one side of the planet to the other. Climate stress may well represent a challenge to international security just as dangerous – and more intractable – than the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union during the cold war or the proliferation of nuclear weapons among rogue states today.

Congress and senior military leaders are taking heed: Legislation under consideration in both the Senate and the House calls for the director of national intelligence to report on the geopolitical implications of climate change. And last week a panel of 11 retired generals and admirals warned that climate change is already a “threat multiplier” in the world’s fragile regions, “exacerbating conditions that lead to failed states – the breeding grounds for extremism and terrorism.”

Addressing the question of scientific uncertainty about climate change, Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, a former Army chief of staff who is now retired, said: “Speaking as a soldier, we never have 100 percent certainty. If you wait until you have 100 percent certainty, something bad is going to happen on the battlefield.”

Thomas Homer-Dixon, director of the Trudeau Center for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Toronto, is the author of “The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal of Civilization.”
(24 April 2007)
Also at Common Dreams.

China speeds towards ‘biggest greenhouse gas producer’ title

Peter Walker, Guardian
China could overtake the US as the globe’s biggest producer of greenhouse gases later this year, far earlier than expected, one of the world’s leading energy bodies warned today.

If left unchecked, within 25 years emissions from China will be double those of the combined output of the US, EU, Japan and all other industrialised nations, said Fatih Birol, chief economist of the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The Paris-based organisation, which advises wealthy countries on energy policy, had previously said China was on course to become the world’s biggest such polluter no earlier than 2009.
(24 April 2007)

China delays climate change plan indefinitely

Richard McGregor, Financial Times
China has delayed indefinitely its national “action plan” on climate change, which was due to be released on Monday after exhaustive consultations among ministries in Beijing and provincial and local governments.

No explanation was given for the move, although global warming is causing increasing international concern about the country’s high-speed economic growth model. China has delayed the long-awaited release of its policy response to climate change, an issue that is increasingly focusing international attention on the country’s high-speed economic growth model.

The action plan would be China’s first considered response to the latest science on climate change and would provide the basis for its position in negotiations for a possible post-Kyoto international accord.

China has resisted setting mandatory targets for emissions but will propose cutting emissions of greenhouse gases per unit of economic output by 40 per cent from 2000 to 2020, according to Reuters.

China is responsible for only a small portion of greenhouse gases that have accumulated in the atmosphere but is likely to become the largest emitter in the world as early as this year, according to the International Energy Agency.
(23 April 2007)
Jerome a Paris comments at Daily Kos: China decides to ignore global warming.

An island made by global warming

Michael McCarthy, Independent

The map of Greenland will have to be redrawn. A new island has appeared off its coast, suddenly separated from the mainland by the melting of Greenland’s enormous ice sheet, a development that is being seen as the most alarming sign of global warming.

Several miles long, the island was once thought to be the tip of a peninsula halfway up Greenland’s remote east coast but a glacier joining it to the mainland has melted away completely, leaving it surrounded by sea.

Shaped like a three-fingered hand some 400 miles north of the Arctic Circle, it has been discovered by a veteran American explorer and Greenland expert, Dennis Schmitt, who has named it Warming Island (Or Uunartoq Qeqertoq in Inuit, the Eskimo language, that he speaks fluently).
(24 April 2007)