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".

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game