Wars of the world: how global warming puts 60 nations at risk

As scientists deliver a detailed report on the impact of climate change this week, an 'IoS' investigation shows it will spark a major rise in conflicts

A A A

Scores of countries face war for scarce land, food and water as global warming increases. This is the conclusion of the most devastating report yet on the effects of climate change that scientists and governments prepare to issue this week.

More than 60 nations, mainly in the Third World, will have existing tensions hugely exacerbated by the struggle for ever-scarcer resources. Others now at peace - including China, the United States and even parts of Europe - are expected to be plunged into conflict. Even those not directly affected will be threatened by a flood of hundreds of millions of "environmental refugees".

The threat is worrying world leaders. The new UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, told a global warming conference last month: "In coming decades, changes in the environment - and the resulting upheavals, from droughts to inundated coastal areas - are likely to become a major driver of war and conflict."

Margaret Beckett, the Foreign Secretary, has repeatedly called global warming "a security issue" and a Pentagon report concluded that abrupt climate change could lead to "skirmishes, battles and even war due to resource constraints".

The fears will be increased by the second report this year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The result of six years' work by 2,500 of the world's top scientists, it will be published on Good Friday.

The first report, released two months ago, concluded that global warming was now "unequivocal" and it was 90 per cent certain that human activities are to blame. The new one will be the first to show for certain that its effects are already becoming evident around the world.

Tomorrow, representatives of the world's governments will meet in Brussels to start four days of negotiation on the ultimate text of the report, which they are likely to tone down somewhat.

But the final confidential draft presented to them by the scientists makes it clear that the consequences of global warming are appearing far sooner and faster than expected. "Changes in climate are now affecting biological and physical systems on every continent," it says.

In 20 years, tens of millions more Latin Americans and hundreds of millions more Africans will be short of water, and by 2050 one billion Asians could face water shortages. The glaciers of the Himalayas, which feed the great rivers of the continent, are likely to melt away almost completely by 2035, threatening the lives of 700 million people.

Though harvests will initially increase in temperate countries - as the extra warmth lengthens growing seasons - they could fall by 30 per cent in India, confronting 130 million people with starvation, by the 2050s.

By 2080, 100 million people could be flooded out of their homes every year as the sea rises to cover their land, turning them into environmental refugees. And up to a third of the world's wild species could be "at high risk of irreversible extinction" from even relatively moderate warming.

International Alert, "an independent peace-building organisation", has complied a list of 61 countries that are already unstable or have recently suffered armed conflict where existing tensions will be exacerbated by shortages of food and water and by the disease, storm flooding and sea-level rise that will accompany global warming, or by the deforestation that helps to cause it. The list forms the basis of the map on the opposite page.

Four years ago the Pentagon report concluded: "As famine, disease and weather-related disasters strike... many countries' needs will exceed their carrying capacity. This will create a sense of desperation, which is likely to lead to offensive aggression."

Many experts believe this has begun. Last year John Reid, the Home Secretary, blamed global warming for helping to cause the genocide in Darfur. Water supplies are seen as a key cause of the Arab-Israeli conflicts. The Golan Heights are important because they control key springs and rivers and the Sea of Galilee, while vital aquifers lie under the West Bank.

John Ashton, the Government's climate change envoy, says that global warming should be addressed "not as a long-term threat to our environment, but as an immediate threat to our security and prosperity".

Life and Style
Social media users in Mexico who commented on cartel violence have been killed in the past
techTweets not showing up or loading this morning, users say
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker