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Climate Change Will Bring War

Posted on 21st February 2017

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This Bloomberg news story confirms what I wrote here (on the 31st March 2014) and again here (on the 8th of December 2016), that war over resources will be one of the results of climate change. The report states that "top European and United Nations officials said" that "focusing too narrowly on the environmental consequences of global warming underestimates the military threats". "Their warnings follow the conclusions of defense [sic] and intelligence agencies that climate change could trigger resource and border conflicts".

A lot of people have told me that my predictions are wrong: just paranoia. Just look, however, at virtually any war, whether in recent memory or more distant history: they were, without exception, at root, about resources: slaves, food, land, water, oil etc. Since all our predictions about the impacts of climate change are that resources will be in short supply, and their distribution will change (those that had resources will have less, and some that had few will have more), it seems inevitable that we will fight each other over them; that is simply what we do, and what we have always done. As an example, this news story in the Economist has a quote from Stephen Bannon, one of Donald Trump’s advisors, who said last year that he had “no doubt” that “we’re going to war in the South China Sea in five to ten years”; that could be a really major conflict (and it is all about resources).

There is a common belief that the world is much less warlike than in the past, but the facts do not, in my view, support this belief. True, there has been no world war for more than 70 years, but there have nevertheless been wars, virtually non-stop, since the end of WWII. Some people will argue that we have, at least, avoided global thermonuclear war (so far, and only by the skin of our teeth), and that this shows that our leaders have learned a little restraint, but I strongly believe that the absence of nuclear conflict is because it is non-functional, in that it destroys the resources that are being fought over, and not because humanity has become more peaceful.

I tend to take the jaundiced view that war is simply part of the human condition, and is largely unavoidable. There is, however, one huge problem with war in the modern world: war is always an environmental nightmare, with wholesale destruction of natural and man-made resources, and drastic pollution which can last decades (there are still areas of France blighted by the last world war). Our environment is now very fragile, due to pollution and over-exploitation, and we should not be subjecting it to more of the stress that is war.

I think we need, as a species, to get over our addiction to war, somehow or other.