Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Move to identify climate change security hotspots

Guardian (UK): The Ministry of Defence has asked climate change experts to identify regions of the world where global warming could spark conflict and security threats. The Met Office will today announce a £12m research contract with the MoD as part of an effort to map the likely impacts of increased temperatures. The research aims to identify countries where battles could break out over increasingly scarce supplies of food and water, as well as predict the likely conditions in which British troops may have to fight in future.

Roy Anderson, the MoD's chief scientific adviser, said: "The MoD has identified climate change as a key strategic factor affecting societal stresses and the responses of communities and nations to those stresses. We have a pressing need for the best available advice on future climate change and, based on these predictions, assessments of the impacts of those changes on human societies at the regional and local scale."

The MoD project is part of a wider programme of research at the Met Office which marks a change in emphasis from whether climate change is occurring to what the likely impacts will be and what society should do about them. The environment department, Defra, has pledged £74m to help scientists provide more detailed forecasts of how UK weather is likely to shift over the coming decades.

Computer models suggest the Middle East will get much drier and hotter this century. By 2100, rainfall is predicted to decrease by 30% across Turkey, Lebanon, northern Syria, western Iran and Afghanistan. The number of days with temperatures classed as dangerously hot for soldiers to operate in is projected to increase from about 10 a year today to as many as 130 a year by the end of the century.

The MoD move marks a growing awareness in recent months that global warming could exacerbate existing conflicts across the world and trigger new flashpoints.

The environmentalist James Lovelock, who believes climate change will claim billions of lives this century, has talked of countries fighting over newly fertile farmland created in a warmer Siberia. And a report for the US government warned in March that the US must prepare to intervene in a growing number of crises across the world brought on by climate change, such as water shortages, collapses in civil order and "the implosion of one or more major cities"…

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