Global warming: weather of mass destruction
The UN's International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently
produced an ominous warning of massive changes in food production
zones; billions of people threatened by reduced water supplies;
hundreds of millions more threatened by rising sea levels; and mass
migrations as hundreds of millions become climate refugees.
In light of this, climate change is now officially being
recognised by the UN as a security issue and a cause of conflict,
and has been placed on the agenda of the Security Council.
The Security Council's mandate is to "to promote the
establishment and maintenance of internationalpeace and security
with the least diversion of the world's human andeconomic resources
for armaments..." That's a clear set of marching orders to tackle
global warming now for what it is: a threat to the "sustainable
security" of the planet.
Poverty, environmental disaster, and war
In the ground-breaking report of The World Commission on
Environment and Development of 1987, Our Common Future, Gro Halrem
Brundtland wrote: "A world in which poverty is endemic will always
be prone to environmental disaster."
But it's time to turn that on its head: "a world in which
environmental disaster is endemic will always be prone to poverty
So how will the debate evolve? Will the climate 'nay sayers' and
intransigents face sanctions under the Security Council's mandate
to "call on [UN] Members to apply economic sanctions and other
measures not involving the use of force to prevent or stop an
aggression." Will the Security Council learn from its recent
mistakes, such as Rwanda and Darfur, and take action before
millions of lives are lost?
The climate of war
A host of ex-generals, including the former Army Chief of Staff
and US President Bush's former chief Middle East peace negotiators,
have now added their voices to the growing chorus of concern over
"We will pay for this one way or another. We will pay to reduce
greenhouse emissions today, and we'll have to take an economic hit
of some kind. Or, we will pay the price later in military terms.
And that will involve human lives. There will be a human toll,"
warned ex-marine Corps General Anthony C Zinni, former commander,
US forces, in the Middle East.
Like never before, green issues and peace issues are rising
together and have to be tackled together.
George W Bush once famously said "the American lifestyle is not
open to negotiation." This misses the point, you can't negotiate
with climate change or, as Hurricante Katrina showed, extreme
Although the G77 has expressed concern that the Security Council
is not the proper place to discuss climate, there is no question
that the proliferation of Weather of Mass Destruction is a worthy
topic for the Security Council. Its appearance on the Council's
agenda represents a coming of age and recognition that failure to
act now could see UN peace keepers patrolling the climate change
front line for centuries to come.
You can't nuke a hurricane
The Security Council Climate debate will be chaired by the UK
foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett. Beckett could use the
opportunity to take a real leadership role and announce a reversal
of the British Government's recent decision to upgrade its nuclear
arsenal. She could tell the council that the GBP75 billion
currently earmarked for keeping the UK a nuclear weapons power for
another half century will instead be invested in real security by
cutting the country's carbon emissions.
recent Greenpeace report showed that redeploying the trident
war chest into renewables and energy efficiency could cut the UK's
CO2 emissions by 14 percent. In one swift move she could help build
confidence in the struggle to curtail both WMD threats.
Becket could begin the process of redirecting some of the US$
1.3 trillion annual global military spending - which is now greater
than the highest level during the cold war - into combating the
'warm war', into averting conflict rather than trying to control
In our recently published report, "Energy [r]evolution," we've
shown that with proper investment in renewable energy along with
energy efficiency, our world can achieve a 50% reduction of global
emissions by 2050: all at a fraction of annual global military
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