Two new reports prepared for the U.K. and the U.S. militaries suggest that the consequences of climate change are immense in scope and will create severe, sustained challenges for the world and its growing population.
The fifth edition of Global Strategic Trends, prepared for the U.K. Ministry of Defence, says climate change will likely create a lengthy list of defence and security implications in the next three decades.
Key predictions include more sexual violence in war zones, failed and failing cities posing major security repercussions for nations and more extreme weather events causing widespread damage and loss of life. The report also raised the prospect of the increased use of nuclear energy increasing the likelihood of fissile material being obtained by non-state actors,
Written for military and political leaders, the 172-page report is stark, frightening and pulls no punches.
“In the process of identifying threats, challenges and defence and security implications for policy- and decision-makers, there may be a tendency for the document to seem rather negative in its outlook. This is an inevitable consequence of its purpose. There is of course scope for human ingenuity to have a significant impact on the future, and hence there are considerable grounds for optimism.”
The second part of the report examines what 2045 might look like in eight geographic areas, as well as in space. It is a world in which the estimated population of between 8.3 and 10.4 billion people is putting increasing demands on the global environment while many nations spend larger and larger amounts on military budgets.
Looking at North America, the report notes that climate change is likely to open up summer shipping routes in the Arctic and new areas for extracting minerals and hydrocarbons.
“However, it is also likely to cause significant harm through heat waves, droughts, and flooding across the region,” the report said. “Northern America’s economic outlook is positive, boosted by newly accessible energy reserves, and it is expected to integrate ever-more closely with the global economy.”
Sub-Saharan Africa, however, “will almost certainly remain a region of significant political and economic differences by 2045,” the report said, even though the region’s economy could grow, depending on country, available infrastructure and the presence of political stability.
U.S. Military Infrastructure Vulnerable
The other study, written for the U.S. military, focused on potential threats to military assets from global warming, including rising temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, more storms, higher sea levels and higher ocean temperatures.
Referring to “mission vulnerabilities” caused by climate change, the 63-page report by the United States Government Accountability Office (PDF) found that the Department of Defence is already collecting data on how its installations around the world may be affected in the future in terms of readiness and economic costs.
In a note to federal politicians, the report said that the Department Of Defence manages a global real-estate portfolio that includes more than 555,000 facilities and 28 million acres of land with a replacement value of close to $850 billion.
“Within the United States, the department’s extensive infrastructure of bases and training ranges, which is critical to maintaining military readiness, extends across all regions, as well as Alaska and Hawaii. This infrastructure is vulnerable to the potential impacts of climate change,” said the report, Climate Change Adaptation.
The report also urged the Pentagon to more effectively and rapidly plan for changes required because of global warming.
Photo: U.S. Navy