Tuesday, September 29, 2009

100 Places to Remember - at least 8 of which are to die for

Having wandered through the exhibition at Kongens Nytorv in Copenhagen and now also enjoyed the accompanying book of 100 Places to Remember Before They Disappear I can't help but take note of a couple of them here.

Because the descriptions in some cases explicitly mentions conflicts. Granted: Many will change with potential drastic consequences. Be it because they become uninhabitable, hence sources of climate change induced migration, or become unsuited for agriculture, leading to loss of food production with all the negative consequences of that. Or because of any of the other potential negative changes. But most are "just" pretty spots that will change due to climate change.


In chronological order of the book, the spots that are related to conflict by the 100 Places project:

#11 The North Pole, Russia/Canada/Denmark

As the Arctic thaws resources of oil, gas and minerals become increasingly available for extraction. But whose resources are they?

#16 Tian Shan, Kazakhstan/Kyrgyzstan/China

The glaciers atop this mountain range provides the water for the breadbasket and powerhouse of Kazakhstan. But due to miniscule drops in precipitation through the last 50 years they have shrunk by 36% already. Climate change will most likely accelerate this drastically. Competition for the remaining water resources will intensify. Neighbours some seriously troubled regions.

#26 Lake Chad, Chad/Cameroon/Niger/Nigeria

This lake is basically an essential source of life in a very arid region of all more or less "failed states". Competition between tribes and nations already intensifying as the lake is drying up rapidly.

#30 Kalahari Desert

Also drying up even beyond what it already is this desert is the last refuge of the die hard San people. But climate change could be the final blow to their basis of existence.

#68 Bering Sea, Russia/USA

This sea is the source of some 2 billion US dollars worth of fishing shared by Russia and USA. But as the waters warm the ecosystem and biodiversity is changing completely. At the very least the fishermen will have to go elsewhere or catch different fish. The worst... well... will begin with trade negotiations, I assume.

#79 Kordofan, Sudan

We've all heard of Darfur. Over and over again. And I've pointed to the vicious cycles between environmental degradation. But I guess Darfur is no longer pretty enough for a photograph in a project like 100 Places? Anyway, Sudan also has a big forest of "hashab" trees (Latin: Acacia senegal) which is the source of the largest production of rubber in the world. But business is slow both because of the nearby Darfur trouble, drought and rising temperatures which has caused a severe decline in forestry productivity. When this region of Sudan also loses it's livelihood...

#84 Niger Delta

This is "all of the above". Beautiful nature, oil pollution, ethnic violence, mass poverty, multinational corporations, rising seas, increasing storms, decline in freshwater availability, increased diseases spreading... huge chance of migration.

#87 Amman, Jordan/Israel/others

Well it's in the Middle East. Historically ideal situation for a fertile capital. But now human over-use of water resources and climate change is lowering the water level of the Dead Sea by one meter per year because less and less water flows by the Jordan River. Agricultural land is turning into desert as you read this. A glance at a map and it becomes obvious this can become a very, very big problem.

All of the above issues will of course get intertwined with the other issues of some of the regions. Like the pipelines running through central Asia. The existing political and historical animosities between certain countries. Perhaps it's in the nick of time these photographs were exhibited. Soon the footage could be less pretty.

(This post is also posted as part of the TH!NK ABOUT IT #2 Climate Change blogging competition. Most of these places are also marked in my Ecowar Battlefields Google map.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Climate change: a multiplier for instability

As a participant in the TH!NK ABOUT IT Climate Change blogging competition I attended Monday's European Journalism Center conference in Bella Conference Center (venue of COP15 later this year). Among the speakers were Francois Roudié, Policy Coordinator of the European Commission. Very insightful and surprisingly willing to engage in open debate. One of his presentation slides more or less resembled an extract of my Ecowar Battlefields map (plus possibly a couple of details I need to pick up on!):

My apologies for the blurry image. From left to right the legend to the map is water scarcity (blue), demography (yellow), crop decline (green), hunger (brown), coastal risks (red lines) and recent conflicts (stars). Point being there is a correlation between areas marked with colours and location of stars.

Asked for a more precise quote Francois Roudié referred to "the Solana report" AKA CLIMATE CHANGE AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY - Paper from the High Representative and the European Commission to the European Council (PDF) (which he'd been involved in writing). I took note of several media reports on that report when it came out last year: Tuesday, March 11, 2008 / EU assessing climate change security risks.

From the introduction: "The risks posed by climate change are real and its impacts are already taking place. [...] Unmitigated climate change beyond 2ºC will lead to unprecedented security scenarios [...] Investment in mitigation to avoid such scenarios, as well as ways to adapt to the unavoidable should go hand in hand with addressing the international security threats created by climate change; both should be viewed as part of preventive security policy. [...] Climate change is best viewed as a threat multiplier which exacerbates existing trends, tensions and instability. The core challenge is that climate change threatens to overburden states and regions which are already fragile and conflict prone. It is important to recognise that the risks are not just of a humanitarian nature; they also include political and security risks that directly affect European interests." Chapter two, "THREATS", first part is particularly interesting (here): Examples of climate change leading to Conflict over resources:
Reduction of arable land, widespread shortage of water, diminishing food and fish stocks, increased flooding and prolonged droughts are already happening in many parts of the world. Climate change will alter rainfall patterns and further reduce available freshwater by as much as 20 to 30% in certain regions. A drop in agricultural productivity will lead to, or worsen, food-insecurity in least developed countries and an unsustainable increase in food prices across the board. Water shortage in particular has the potential to cause civil unrest [...] The overall effect is that climate change will fuel existing conflicts over depleting resources, especially where access to those resources is politicised.

The other speakers included Svend Olling, Head of Department of COP15 logistics who made the slightly provocative point that "greening" the conference is only (his) fourth priority - after showcasing energy technology, providing sufficient logistics for a good conference outcome and as first priority: security! (no world leader will be shot in an electric car.) And Mads Christensen, executive director of Greenpeace Nordic who ensured us all protests will be "completely non-violent, peaceful".

Please consider subscribing to the feed of posts submitted to the climate change blogging "competition". I have a good feeling about this project.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Nuclear waste dumped in Mediterranean

They have somehow maintained a romantic image while running a business of world wide drug distribution, assassinations and assorted corruption. But no description is too demeaning for the latest crime committed by the Italian mafia.

Francesco Fonti, a former member of the Calabrian Mafia, has told of sinking ships loaded with radioactive and otherwise dangerous waste in the Mediterranean Sea. They thereby solved one of the biggest problems of the nuclear industry - getting rid of the waste - and made loads of money while doing it for about 20 years.

Italian authorities have now found and even filmed such a wreck with yellow barrels labeled for toxic content inside it. The full extent of the unspeakable environmental crime is still to be investigated.

The view is nice. But what is below the surface? Photo: Grace and Godbeams by Daveness_98, Creative Commons license.

Sources: BBC / Mafia 'sank ships of toxic waste' (with video), Reuters / Italy finds wreck of toxic waste ship sunk by mafia, Al Jazeera / Italian mafia 'sunk toxic waste', AP / Robot sub hunts toxic waste off Italian coast.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Trouble brewing in dried-out India

Years of excessive use of water for irrigating fields, a drying trend from global warming, a record drought and astronomical scale pollution all adds up to trouble in India.

Harvests go down, farmer income the same direction, malnourishment and desperation up. So much according to The Star / India: Dying of thirst a family was murdered in a riot over water. (We need a -cide word somewhere between homi- and geno- for this!)

"We are running out of it, and crops are going to slow. We will see more hunger, more disputes and clashes. More theft."
- Naranjan Singh, a 63-year-old farmer

"In a decade, India could look like Darfur. You have people running out of water, and it's a recipe for killing. It really does make people desperate. You go without it for just three days and you've had it."
- Vandana Shiva, nuclear physicist and water activist

"Climate change is threatening our ecosystems, water scarcity is becoming a way of life and pollution is a growing threat to our health and habitat."
- Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

Over-use of water is a problem that has created as the so-called "Green Revolution" of decades past sought to address other issues. Human caused depletion was confirmed by NASA satellites last month. (Source: NASA data shows groundwater trouble)

Monday, September 07, 2009

Another MUST SEE: Crude - The Real Price of Oil

Just saw HOME, still planning to see DIRT and now this, CRUDE. (Haven't these people heard of lower case letters?) Another 2009 film about environmental exploitation and the hidden costs of it; mostly poor and/or indigenous people abused by Western companies and consumers.

More at the official website, IMDb, Hollywood and Fine / Crude: The cost of social Darwinism, ifc.com / Joe Berlinger's Crude New Film. From the reviews:
Crude [...] will be in the thick of the Oscar fight.

a heartbreaking and compellingly multifaceted epic about the so-called "Amazon Chernobyl" case

Part of this story was also told in an episode of the tv series Extreme Oil [IMDb].

Thursday, September 03, 2009

China: Thousands riot over sewage pollution

That Chinese economic development is taking place more rapidly than environmental protection is no secret. Air pollution in larger cites have been among the worst in the world for years.

But a sewage leak was what finally sparked unrest in one town where for at least two years insufficient industrial water treatment has darkened river water and probably caused otherwise inexplicable cancer cases. Somewhere between 4,000 and 10,000 protesters clashed with 2,000 riot police leaving 10 injured and some property damage.

"The stench is awful. Nobody wants to buy our fish. We can't earn money. The fishing boats have been abandoned on the shore."
- Liu, local.

"Environmental quality is not satisfactory and environmental protection work is arduous."
- Zhou Shengxian, Environmental protection minister

Sources: New Tang Dynasty Television / 10,000 Clash with Police Over Sewage Pollution (with video), Guardian / Further anti-pollution riots break out in China, Telegraph / China riot: 10,000 villagers clash with police over industrial pollution

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

John Kerry: Climate change to cause conflict; how come deniers can stay in politics?

In a late evening soon to end brief spell of energetic RSS-feed checking ending a day of trying to sleep away a flu attack I find We Can't Ignore the Security Threat from Climate Change by John Kerry, US Senator, is a kind of follow-up and sum-up to the articles I posted Sunday, August 02, 2009: US Senators, military join chorus: Climate change is a security threat that leaves little to be misunderstood.

Make no mistake: catastrophic climate change represents a threat to human security, global stability, and -- yes -- even to American national security.

Climate change injects a major new source of chaos, tension, and human insecurity into an already volatile world. It threatens to bring more famine and drought, worse pandemics, more natural disasters, more resource scarcity, and human displacement on a staggering scale. We risk fanning the flames of failed-statism, and offering glaring opportunities to the worst actors in our international system. In an interconnected world, that endangers all of us.


We don't know with certainty whether climate change pushed Darfur over the edge, but we do know that it will cause more tension just like we've seen in Darfur.

Once you accept the science, it's clear that such massive environmental change will create dislocation, destruction, chaos, and conflict.


Nowhere is the connection between climate and security more direct than in South Asia -- home to al Qaeda. Scientists now warn that the Himalayan glaciers which supply fresh water to a billion people in the region could disappear completely by 2035. Think about what this means: Water from the Himalayans flows through India and Pakistan. India's rivers are not only vital to its agriculture but are also critical to its religious practice. Pakistan, for its part, is heavily dependent on irrigated farming to avoid famine.

At a moment when the U.S. government is scrambling to ratchet down tensions and preparing to invest billions of dollars to strengthen Pakistan's capacity to deliver for its people -- climate change could work so powerfully in the opposite direction.

Notice that I am adding the bold formatting to selected text. I chose what to quote here. This is not because I think those issues are the most important and pressing issues in the world. But they certainly are important and not least extremely underexposed by media. Plus it's simply the topic of this particular blog to highlight conflict-nature links. But I don't wish to put any judgement on what is more catastrophic: never ending civil war, mass extinctions, cataclysmic floodings or what ever else we'll see. Anyway, here's Kerrys best or most unique observation:

Unfortunately, not everyone in Washington appreciates the stakes. It's tragic that we live at a time when if one were to dismiss the threat of terrorism, you'd be sent home in the next election. But there are no similar political consequences if you dismiss the science or the threat of climate change.

Indeed, Kerry. We seem to have a major political dichotomy at our hands here.

Do yourself a favour and read the whole thing at Huffington Post.

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