As The Effects Of Climate Change Escalate, So Could Global Conflict, Writer Says

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The Earth on fire is seen during a Greenpeace protest at the Heroes square in Budapest on Sept. 4, 2019. (Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images)
The Earth on fire is seen during a Greenpeace protest at the Heroes square in Budapest on Sept. 4, 2019. (Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images)

With Meghna Chakrabarti

Global chaos over climate change. Wars over scarce resources. Desperate mass migrations. Our guest says that’s the not so distant future if the world doesn’t take action now.


Emily Atkin, contributing editor to The New Republic. Author of the climate newsletter "Heated." (@emorwee)

Francesco Femia, co-founder of the nonpartisan think tank Center for Climate and Security (@CntrClimSec). CEO and co-founder at the Council on Strategic Risks.

From The Reading List

The New Republic: "The Blood-Dimmed Tide" — "It’s the year 2100. The nationalist ideology popularized by Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, and Boris Johnson has not only retained its hold on industrialized nations, but also expanded amid conditions of climate upheaval. Many of the world’s major powers have spent the last several decades focusing on themselves. Borders have closed. International investments in education and technology have declined. The divide between the developed and undeveloped world has widened.

"No sane soul denies now that the world is warming, though some keep trying. Still others in the camp of nationalist reaction have taken to insisting the earth’s wrath is God’s punishment instead of humanity’s folly. But the evidence is all too crushingly plain that the violent, convulsive new world order taking shape in this moment of climate reckoning is entirely the handiwork of a fatal set of preventable human system failures. It’s been an excruciatingly slow-motion disaster, engineered by shortsighted, power-obsessed leaders hell-bent on denying scientific truths—and blocking the basic measures to mitigate carbon emissions and stave off drought, rising ocean tides, and mass migrations of climate-traumatized populations to higher ground in increasingly xenophobic and belligerent rich Western nations.

"With all these catastrophic scenarios now daily facts of life, the specter of climate upheaval—long held forth as the urgent, and quite possibly final, imperative to overcome tribal political divisions and the human race’s retrograde hoarding instincts—is acting as an accelerant of global conflict, plunging nationalist powers into a regressive rivalry to seize scarce resources and deny access to putative outsiders of all descriptions. The lineaments of a more equitable, sustainable, and cooperative world sketched out by advocates of a Green New Deal have given way, in stunningly short order, to a race to a new global bottom, equal parts Thomas Hobbes and Mad Max.


"The endgame was distressingly rapid, and looks especially so in retrospect. Following Donald Trump’s reelection to the presidency in 2020, the United States failed to implement aggressive climate policies necessary to avoid the 1.5 degree Celsius threshold. America’s continued abdication of any serious leadership role in the climate crisis touched off a series of other high-profile defections from regional and international climate accords that were already insufficient in their target goals. Plans to decarbonize developed economies ground to a halt in many countries. Developing countries, heeding the now-malign neglect of many leaders of industrialized nations, continued relying on traditional, resource-intensive forms of moneymaking: farming, mining, and fossil fuel burning. Their populations kept growing, too, since part of the global surge into nationalist reaction was a rollback of basic contraception and family planning services."

MSNBC: "Why climate change is a national security issue" — "President Trump doesn’t acknowledge that climate change is real, but the Pentagon does. Ali Velshi and Stephanie Ruhle are joined by the director of the Center for Climate and Security, John Conger, to break down the ways climate change threatens America’s national security."

BBC: "How to save a sinking island nation" — "The evidence of the climate crisis is now undeniable. But state responses to climate change often have social and political motivations, rather than addressing the realities of this threat.

"There has been a backlash against this lack of impetus in recent times by groups such as Extinction Rebellion, which highlights the need for significant action by wealthy Global North states. These wealthy, industrialised nations – and about 100 corporations largely headquartered within them, according to one report – have been the largest drivers of climate change via fossil fuel emissions, while baulking at global agreements to provide meaningful climate aid to developing countries.

"The idea of drowning or sinking islands has long existed as a way to describe future risks that small island states must confront. But the reality is that these threats affect life in such places today. Many small islands states have chosen to reintroduce previously unpopular resettlement and migration policies in the face of climate change.

"This is the story of Kiritimati (pronounced Ki-ri-si-mas) in the mid-Pacific – the largest coral atoll in the world. A closer look at the story of this particular island sheds light on the issues facing those living in similar locations all around the world, and the inadequacy of current international policy."

Dorey Scheimer produced this hour for broadcast.

This program aired on September 19, 2019.

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