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Climate change wars are coming and building walls won’t help, top general warns

Tuesday, November 1, 2016 9:17
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Desdemona Despair

Fire burns at night in the refugee camp in Calais, France, known as 'the Jungle', 26 October 2016. Photo: AP

By Ian Johnston
26 October 2016

(Independent) – Climate change is threatening to force millions of people to become refugees and spark major wars that could “completely destabilise” the world, a leading general has warned.

And countries which attempted to deal with the coming crisis by resorting to “narrow nationalistic instincts” – for example, by building walls to keep out refugees – will only make the problem worse, according to Major General Munir Muniruzzaman, chairman of the Global Military Advisory Council On Climate Change (GMACCC).

He added that, while countries had talked a lot about the problems posed by global warming and how to address them, there did not seem to be “much action” on the ground.

The GMACCC was set up in 2009 to investigate the security implications of climate change and its members include serving and retired military officers from around the world, such as the UK’s Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti and Brigadier General Stephen Cheney, a former US Marine.

Speaking ahead of the United Nations climate summit in Marrakesh next month, General Muniruzzaman said it was time to make good on the promises made at last year’s historic meeting in Paris with global warming already contributing to flooding and droughts, threatening financial security and affecting people's health.

“In our analysis, we are seeing the risk is now becoming all-pervasive from climate change in the sense that it is touching multiple sectors … many of the sectors are being gravely challenged,” he said.

“In some areas of the world, some of the issues we are touching on are becoming so severe they hold tremendous conflict potential.”

He pointed to the recent diplomatic row between bitter regional rivals India and Pakistan, which both have large militaries and nuclear weapons, over water supplies.

“There was a possibility of a break down [of diplomacy] … which could have led to the first major water conflict of the world,” he said. […]

“Imagine, with an international community unable to cope with a few thousand Syrian refugees, what will happen when millions of people are on the move,” he said. […]

“I’m very strongly of the opinion that walls are never a solution. You cannot build walls to stop people when they want to go to safety. If you build walls and high fences, they will break them and cross over. The risk people are taking when they cross the water [the Mediterranean] … many have drowned.” [more]

Climate change wars are coming and building walls won’t help, top general warns


Impact of sea level rise in Bangladesh. Three maps in a time relapse resulting in 18 million people affected, 22,000 km2 of land submerged by flooding. Graphic: Rekacewicz, 2008 / Vital Water Graphics 2 / GRID-Arendal

GMACCC Chairman, Maj. General A.N.M. Muniruzzaman (Ret.) of Bangladesh, has published an opinion article on the value of regional cooperation when facing climate change impacts. The 31 May editorial on the Scroll.in news website, “Why South Asia can’t afford to be glacial in its response to climate change” highlights Gen. Muniruzzaman’s views on risks and needed efforts such as transboundary water cooperation.

“The record high temperatures combined with the drought that is sweeping across India is driving many thousands from their villages in search of water and shelter. The pictures of devastating floods in Pakistan in 2013, which affected 18 million people and forced many from their homes, is still fresh in my mind.”

The article continues, “It is now visibly clear in South Asia that we are living with climate change – erratic weather patterns, extreme weather events, more frequent floods and droughts are just some of the hallmarks. These changes – and their impact on human security and state stability – cause me concern. Perhaps this is just the beginning of the things to come.”

“It may surprise some, but Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan already have effective trans-boundary water management agreements in place which seek to resolve disputes. In the face of a warming world, it is clear that there is a need for more such agreements and for the scope of existing ones to be expanded.”

See the article online

Maj. General A.N.M. Muniruzzaman (Ret.) of Bangladesh (center) with co-authors of the GMACCC Climate and Security in South Asia” report, Lt. General Tariq Waseem Ghazi (Ret.) of Pakistan and Air Marshall A.K. Singh (Ret.) of India, 2015.

Opinion article published on climate cooperation

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