FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Resource Wars

Climate change and greater competition for natural resources will inevitably lead to "resource wars," according to British Defense Secretary John Reid.

In a recent London address, Secretary Reid said that such conflict is already upon us in the developing world. "The blunt truth is that the lack of water and agricultural land is a significant contributory factor to the tragic conflict we see unfolding in Darfur... We should see this as a warning sign."

Reid's perspective is borne out of the growing belief that climate change will cause disruptive, rather than incremental, changes in weather and climate patterns, such as sudden changes in sea level, increased storm activity, and rapid appearance of "dust bowls." With their resources already stressed, developing regions of the world will be the first to feel these effects.

Reid's speech also suggest a fundamental shift in policy, at least in Britain. In the US, the Pentagon commissioned a report in 2003, titled An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security and co-authored by renowned futurist Peter Schwartz, that echoed these themes:

"As famine, disease, and weather-related disasters strike due to abrupt climate change," the Pentagon report notes, "many countries' needs will exceed their carrying capacity" -- that is, their ability to provide the minimum requirements for human survival. This "will create a sense of desperation, which is likely to lead to offensive aggression" against countries with a greater stock of vital resources.

"Imagine eastern European countries, struggling to feed their populations with a falling supply of food, water, and energy, eyeing Russia, whose population is already in decline, for access to its grain, minerals, and energy supply."

Such conflict could manifest itself in many ways, including regional warfare, terrorism, religious fanaticism and attempts to hijack increasingly scarce resources. Ultimately, even affluent countries in the developed world would be drawn into conflicts, either as peacekeepers or to protect their own supply lines.

Sources: Institute for Global Communications , The Independent, TomDispatch.com