Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Climate Change and Conflict: Excerpts from a 2013 US Intelligence Report

A March 2013, Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community, prepared for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, indicates that a changing climate and competition for natural resources can fuel tensions and conflicts. Here are select quotes from the report that highlight this relationship.

"Competition and scarcity involving natural resources—food, water, minerals, and energy—are growing security threats."

"Extreme weather events (floods, droughts, heat waves) will increasingly disrupt food and energy markets, exacerbating state weakness, forcing human migrations, and triggering riots, civil disobedience, and vandalism."

"Natural food-supply disruptions, due to floods, droughts, heat waves, and diseases, as well as policy choices, probably will stress the global food system in the immediate term"

"At the same time, agricultural inputs—water, fertilizer, land, and fuel oil—are becoming more scarce and/or costly, exacerbating the upward pressure on food prices."

"Although food-related state-on-state conflict is unlikely in the near term, the risk of conflict between farmers and livestock owners—often in separate states—will increase as population growth and crop expansion infringe on livestock grazing areas, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and Central Asia. Disputes over fisheries are also likely to increase as water scarcity emerges in major river basins, and marine fisheries are depleted. Shrinking marine fisheries—for example, in the South China Sea—will lead to diplomatic disputes as fishermen are forced to travel further from shore. In addition, government grants of state-owned land to domestic and foreign agricultural developers are likely to stoke conflict in areas without well-defined land ownership laws and regulations."

"Risks to freshwater supplies—due to shortages, poor quality, floods, and climate change—are growing."

"Water shortages and pollution will also harm the economic performance of important US trading partners."

"Many countries are using groundwater faster than aquifers can replenish in order to satisfy food demand. In the long term, without mitigation actions (drip irrigation, reduction of distortive electricity-forwater pump subsidies, access to new agricultural technology, and better food distribution networks), exhaustion of groundwater sources will cause food demand to be satisfied through increasingly stressed global markets."

"Food security has been aggravated partly because the world’s land masses are being affected by weather conditions outside of historical norms, including more frequent and extreme floods, droughts, wildfires, tornadoes, coastal high water, and heat waves. Rising temperature, for example, although enhanced in the Arctic, is not solely a high-latitude phenomenon. Recent scientific work shows that temperature anomalies during growing seasons and persistent droughts have hampered agricultural productivity and extended wildfire seasons. Persistent droughts during the past decade have also diminished flows in the Nile, Tigris-Euphrates, Niger, Amazon, and Mekong river basins."

"Demographic trends will also aggravate the medium- to long-term outlooks for resources and energy.Through roughly 2030, the global population is expected to rise from 7.1 billion to about 8.3 billion; the size of the world’s population in the middle class will expand from the current 1 billion to more than 2 billion; and the proportion of the world’s population in urban areas will grow from 50 percent to about 60 percent—all putting intense pressure on food, water, minerals, and energy."

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