Armed forces are put on standby to tackle threat of wars over water

A A A

Across the world, they are coming: the water wars. From Israel to India, from Turkey to Botswana, arguments are going on over disputed water supplies that may soon burst into open conflict.

Yesterday, Britain's Defence Secretary, John Reid, pointed to the factor hastening the violent collision between a rising world population and a shrinking world water resource: global warming.

In a grim first intervention in the climate-change debate, the Defence Secretary issued a bleak forecast that violence and political conflict would become more likely in the next 20 to 30 years as climate change turned land into desert, melted ice fields and poisoned water supplies.

Climate campaigners echoed Mr Reid's warning, and demanded that ministers redouble their efforts to curb carbon emissions.

Tony Blair will today host a crisis Downing Street summit to address what he called "the major long-term threat facing our planet", signalling alarm within Government at the political consequences of failing to deal with the spectre of global warming.

Activists are modelling their campaign on last year's Make Poverty History movement in the hope of creating immense popular pressure for action on climate change.

Mr Reid used a speech at Chatham House last night to deliver a stark assessment of the potential impact of rising temperatures on the political and human make-up of the world. He listed climate change alongside the major threats facing the world in future decades, including international terrorism, demographic changes and global energy demand.

Mr Reid signalled Britain's armed forces would have to be prepared to tackle conflicts over dwindling resources. Military planners have already started considering the potential impact of global warming for Britain's armed forces over the next 20 to 30 years. They accept some climate change is inevitable, and warn Britain must be prepared for humanitarian disaster relief, peacekeeping and warfare to deal with the dramatic social and political consequences of climate change.

Mr Reid warned of increasing uncertainty about the future of the countries least well equipped to deal with flooding, water shortages and valuable agricultural land turning to desert.

He said climate change was already a contributory factor in conflicts in Africa.

Mr Reid said: "As we look beyond the next decade, we see uncertainty growing; uncertainty about the geopolitical and human consequences of climate change.

"Impacts such as flooding, melting permafrost and desertification could lead to loss of agricultural land, poisoning of water supplies and destruction of economic infrastructure.

"More than 300 million people in Africa currently lack access to safe water; climate change will worsen this dire situation."

He added: "These changes are not just of interest to the geographer or the demographer; they will make scarce resources, clean water, viable agricultural land even scarcer.

"Such changes make the emergence of violent conflict more rather than less likely... The blunt truth is that the lack of water and agricultural land is a significant contributory factor to the tragic conflict we see unfolding in Darfur. We should see this as a warning sign."

Tony Juniper, the executive director of Friends of the Earth, said: "The science of global warming is becoming ever more certain about the scale of the problem we have, and now the implications of that for security and politics is beginning to emerge."

He said the problems could be most acute in the Middle East and North Africa.

Charlie Kornick, head of climate campaigning at the pressure group Greenpeace, said billions of people faced pressure on water supplies due to climate change across Africa, Asia and South America. He said: "If politicians realise how serious the problems could be, why are British CO2 emissions still going up?"

Tony Blair will be joined by the Chancellor Gordon Brown, the Environment Secretary, Margaret Beckett, and the International Development Secretary, Hilary Benn, at today's talks in Downing Street.

They will be meeting representatives of the recently created Stop Climate Chaos, an alliance of environmental groups including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Oxfam. It will also meet opposition parties.

The alliance will call for the Government to commit itself to achieving a 3 per cent annual fall in carbon dioxide emissions.

The facts

* On our watery planet, 97.5 per cent of water is salt water, unfit for human use.

* Most of the fresh water is locked in the ice caps.

* The recommended basic water requirement per person per day is 50 litres. But people can get by with about 30 litres: 5 litres for food and drink and another 25 for hygiene.

* Some countries use less than 10 litres per person per day. Gambia uses 4.5, Mali 8, Somalia 8.9, and Mozambique 9.3.

* By contrast the average US citizen uses 500 litres per day, and the British average is 200.

* In the West, it takes about eight litres to brush our teeth, 10 to 35 litres to flush a lavatory, and 100 to 200 litres to take a shower.

* The litres of water needed to produce a kilo of:

Potatoes 1,000

Maize 1,400

Wheat 1,450

Chicken 4,600

Beef 42,500

Mike McCarthy

News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
News
peopleLynda Bellingham's tragic final Loose Women appearance moves audience to tears
Arts and Entertainment
'Right Here' singer Jess Glynne is nominated for Best Newcomer at the MOBO Awards 2014
musicExclusive: Jess Glynne hits out at 'ridiculous' criticism of white artists nominated for Mobo Awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The last great picture - Winner 'Black and White' and overall 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year'
art
News
news

Powerful images of strays taken moments before being put down

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 pose for Children in Need 2001
music
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voices

Arts and Entertainment
Separated at birth? Frank Sivero (left) claims The Simpsons based Mafia character Louie on his Goodfellas character
arts + entsFrank Sivero sues Simpsons studio over allegedly basing mobster character on Frank Carbone
News
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee
people

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon

News
news

Voices
Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014
voices

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Database Administrator

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: The role could involve w...

Science Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualified secondary s...

Deputy Head of Science

£22000 - £36000 per annum + MPR / UPR: Randstad Education Southampton: Our cli...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £35000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London