NUSA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) - Global warming could trigger mass migration, disrupt trade and lead to conflicts over farmland and water resources from Africa to Asia, a report released at climate talks in Bali said on Monday.
The report by the German Advisory Council on Global Change says time is running out for nations to agree on binding cuts of greenhouse gases before higher temperatures, rising seas, melting glaciers and more droughts and floods sowed chaos.
Developing nations, and particularly those with weak governments, were particularly at risk and a threat to regional security, says the report “Climate Change as a Security Risk”.
“We are not talking about conflicts between armies of nation states,” said Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, one of the report’s authors, told a news conference in Bali.
“In the future, we would expect, if global warming is not confined, that fragile, vulnerable states might implode under the pressure of global warming and then send shock waves to other countries,” said Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
He said if scientific projections on global warming come true, “We might have something like a global civil war with many pockets of conflicts”.
He pointed to melting glaciers in the Himalayas and the Andes as an example that could trigger conflicts and mass migration. The crisis in Darfur, partly triggered by prolonged drought, was another example.
“We are very concerned about the meltdown of glaciers in the Himalayas because many people depend on the water resources from glacial melt in the summer.”
Hundreds of million of people in China, South Asia and Southeast Asia rely on water from the Himalayas. A projected melt of Himalayan glaciers could lead to dry rivers in the summer.
“Climate change is going to intensify and increase the tensions that will potentially arise from a changing environment, be it access to water, land degradation or sea level rises,” Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, told the same briefing.
“Where do tens of millions of people move when there is no place left in South Asia where there aren’t people already living?” Steiner asked.
He said the Bali talks were ultimately about how rich nations can take responsibility for their emissions.
“The issue is trying to answer the question: How does the polluter have to count the costs in order to create the conditions under which the whole global community can continue to exist on this planet in a fair way.”
The report says an ambitious global climate policy must be put into operation in the next 10-15 years, leading to a halving of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
It also pointed to the risk of conflict in the next 20 years from a projected rise of China and India and the relative weakening of the United States.
“A glance back at history shows that transitions from one type of world order to another rarely take place peacefully,” it says.
“Global politics over the next two decades will therefore have to master two challenges in parallel: the shift in the centers of power of the political world order and the global turnaround towards effective climate policy.”
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Editing by Alister Doyle