IPS: Global climate change, if left unaddressed, is likely to pose "as a great or a greater foreign policy and national security challenge than any problem" the United States currently faces, according to a major new report released here Monday by two influential Washington think tanks.
Under a worst-case scenario, that nonetheless remains "plausible" given the latest scientific estimates, climate change's impacts on global stability "would destabilise virtually every aspect of modern life," according to the conclusions of a task force assembled by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies and the Centre for a New American Security (CNAS).
"The only comparable experience for many in the group was considering what the aftermath of a U.S.-Soviet nuclear exchange might have entailed during the height of the Cold War," according to the 119-page study, "The Age of Consequences: The Foreign Policy and National Security Implications of Global Climate Change."
The rising temperatures and sea levels that are caused by climate change will probably set off "large-scale migrations of people, both inside nations and across existing national borders" even under more benign scenarios. The impact of drought and glacial melt in some parts of the world will is also likely to spur large population movements.
"The more severe scenarios suggest the prospect of perhaps billions of people over the medium or longer term being forced to relocate," according to the report, which stressed that any mass migrations will almost certainly trigger sharp increases in regional tensions and increasingly draconian efforts by wealthier countries to prevent migrants from crossing their borders.
"Global warming has the potential to destabilise the world," said CNAS president Kurt Campbell, who served as deputy defence secretary under President Bill Clinton. "In my view, this will quickly become the defining issue of our age."
The report, which comes as the Democratic-led Congress has begun moving legislation designed to reduce global warming emissions from power plants, factories and cars by as much as 60 percent under current levels by 2050, is aimed at what Campbell called the "surprising and alarming" lack of knowledge about climate change's geo-political implications within the U.S. national security community….