Bangladesh on climate conflict list
Tuesday, 11 December 2007

India, Bangladesh and Pakistan are among potential hot spots where climate change could aggravate tensions, trigger violence and spawn conflict, a report released at the Bali climate meet warned today.

Extreme weather events, melting glaciers and sea-level rise, and an increasing number of climate refugees could overwhelm countries, according to the report prepared by German and Swiss researchers.

“Climate change will overstretch many societies’ adaptive capacities… this could result in violence jeopardizing national and international security to a new degree,” said Hans Schell Huber, the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and lead author of the report.

In South Asia, Himalayan glacial retreat will threaten water supply, monsoon changes could harm crops, and sea-level rise and cyclones could threaten towns along the densely populated Bay of Bengal, the report said.

“These dynamics will increase the social crisis potential in a region already characterized by cross-border conflicts (India and Pakistan), unstable governments (Pakistan and Bangladesh) and Islamism,” it said.

The report, produced by the German Advisory Council on Global Change, was released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) at the Bali climate change conference today.

“Climate change is perhaps the most high profile among environmental challenges facing the world and security of communities and countries,” said Achim Steiner, the executive director of the UNEP.

In South Asia and North Africa, where farmland is already over-exploited, any drop in crop production because of global warming of 2 to 4 degrees Celsius may lead to regional food crises and collapse of social systems, and intensify violent conflicts, it said.

The report predicted that climate change would trigger conflicts over the distribution of water and land, the management of migration, and compensation payments between countries responsible for climate change and countries suffering its destructive effects.

The worst-affected countries are likely to invoke the “polluter pays” principle, so international controversy over a global compensation regime for climate change would probably intensify, the report said.

In addition to industrialized countries, emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil may also be called upon to pay by other developing countries whose own emissions are much less.

The report has pinpointed North Africa, southern Africa, Central Asia, China, the Gulf of Mexico region, the Amazon and the Andes as other potential hot spots for climate-change induced violence.

The triggers at each hot spot may be unique or shared by others — water scarcity, harvest failures, increased frequency of cyclones, loss of forests, loss of glaciers and a drop in farm productivity.

In April this year, the UN Security Council had held its first-ever debate on the likely impact of climate change on peace and security.

The meeting, called by the UK, had examined how energy, security and climate could be linked but had also drawn criticism from some delegates who argued that climate change was a socio-economic issue that needed to be dealt with by the UN General Assembly and not the Security Council.

China’s delegate Liu Zhenmin was among those who had argued that the council was not the proper forum for a debate on climate change.


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