Dr Steven A. Leibo is the Sage Colleges Professor of International History & Politics.
One of the really curious aspects of the entire discussion about humanity’s accidental forcing of a change in the global climate balance within which we have built human civilization is how many of the really important elements of this profound challenge almost never get discussed. I mean for some reason we focus on the more visually dramatic elements of the challenge from the increasingly stronger tropical storms to the rising waters that especially threaten our coastlines.
And yet we ignore the most obvious implications of the threat of dramatic climate change like the less visually dramatic but more expansive and immediate threat to global public health around the world and the especially serious international security implications of the challenge. Or least too many of the public and politicians do but not Gwyn Dyer, Canada’s most prominent writer on military and security issues, who has taken on the effort of explaining the full implications of a world where drying out land increasingly causes crop failures that put entire societies at risk; exploring the emerging realities of this growing challenge in his brilliant new book Climate Wars.
But Dyer is not alone in this undertaking, as he makes clear. The world’s military s have already begun their plans to confront the military security threat of climate change. In fact, Dyer bases much of his work on studies already produced by the world’s military establishments. Laying out a series of scenarios on what is likely to happen as the world becomes more and more stressed by the lack of available water. Writing about what might well happen in nuclear armed South Asia as a truly water parched Pakistan confronts a situation where its arch enemy India controls the headwaters of the rivers that feed its people. What may well happen as the previously well off industrialized folks of the northern hemisphere find themselves besieged by millions of their more southerly neighbors who will soon find themselves trapped in regions increasingly without the water necessary to nurture their crops.
Or when China, itself suffering from the depletion of the Tibetan glaciers starts diverting water from those that feed India and if you don’t have the stomach to reflect deeply on this series of very likely geo-political explosions Dyer offers up let me simply suggest a perusal of the document just issued last Thursday by the Military Advisory Council of the project on Climate Change and the Military within which current and retired military officers from across the globe warn of the tremendous security implications of climate change. But the most curious aspect of this unfolding drama is that other too often ignored reality of dramatic climate change; the impact on global public health that has already begun. In short, this is not about the polar bears, but humanity itself. A point driven deeply home by the authors of important new document on the Human Impact of Climate Change “The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis” issued by the Global Humanitarian Forum of Geneva, chaired by Kofi Anan the former Secretary General of the United Nations. A document that reminds us that even now that every year climate change is leaving over 300,000 people dead. That it currently leaves 325 million people seriously affected and economic losses of around US$ 125 billion. A reality that is certainly the most immediate and dangerous aspect of dramatic climate change yet one that is hardly ever even discussed issues discussed. Yet are currently available in three documents that everyone should take the time to explore.
And for many of those within Northeast Public Radio’s listening audience there will be a chance to explore some of these critical aspects of climate change challenge right here in Upstate New York as Susan Scrimshaw, President of the Russell Sage College and an internationally known expert on Public Health takes her turn at the podium of the Sage Colleges’ ambitious Road to Copenhagen series this Tuesday evening Nov. 10 in Troy NY information for which can be found at http://www.sage.edu