News Column

Climate Change Threatens Global Security

Feb. 15, 2013

Chris Melzer, dpa

climate change

A German expert on climate change is to address the UN Security Council later Friday on the threat that global warming poses for world security.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will be the first speaker, followed by Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, who will be the only expert to address the council.

Schellnhuber, who spoke to dpa ahead of the event, said that when sea levels rise, space for human settlements will shrink - as will supplies of clean water and food.

"Distribution battles over what's left would be the logical result," said Schellnhuber, founder of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research.

"It's like a shipwreck where in the beginning everyone cooperates. But when it becomes clear that there's not enough room for everyone in the life boat, that's when the punching and stabbing begins," he said.

The climate expert said that if Earth really heats up another four or five degrees Celsius, the world "as we know it will stop to exist."

"Until now, water shortages have resulted in more cooperative efforts," Schellnhuber said. "But when sea levels rise five metres, when the monsoon system is transformed and El Nino becomes stronger, that will change."

A totally new global picture will emerge that will present security issues never known before.

Already, many rivers have stopped flowing into the sea because agriculture sucks up so much of the water. As more than 90 per cent of the world's drinkable water is used for farming, the shortage of potable water will automatically mean a shortage of food.

"India will soon have the world's largest population. With two or three bad harvests, there would be a problem that the world can't simply sweep under the carpet," he said.

In addition, tropical diseases could migrate to Europe.

It is "a special tragedy" that climate change first hits tropical regions, and therefore developing countries, Schellnhuber said. "That means it will not only affect the poorest, but also leave people in industrialized regions thinking that it's of no concern to them."

Climate change, however, is global. "Whoever wants to ignore the problem has to start right now building a high fence around their country. They can forget trade," the expert said.

But Schellnhuber expressed some optimism that there is a "new seriousness" about the issue.

"Political leaders have tuned in to the threat. And now, if the powerful Security Council takes on the issue, that will give a huge push to recognizing the problem."

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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