Monday, November 29, 2010

Climate Change and its National Security Implications Part II

The effects of climate change on humans will not arise as former Vice President Al Gore explains in his Inconvenient Truth nor will it be the cataclysmic Hollywood summer blockbuster brought to you by Jerry Bruckheimer.  Instead, it is a slow change that still has a severe impact on the human population of the planet.  

Lack of access to fresh water, diminished capacity to produce food, affects to human health and the loss of land are the larger impacts of humans based on climate change.  These factors have an effect on the national security policies of not only the United States, but also all of the other developed nations in the world.

Studies have shown that the increased ferocity of storm systems around the planet, ranging from Katrina in 2005 to the cyclone that devastated Myanmar in 2009 is affected by the warming of the planet.  Models have shown that the planet may see a rise in sea levels by 3 feet (1 meter) by the end of the current century.  There is also a possibility that this rise could increase based on receding ice on the planet uncovering permafrost that expels great amounts of methane that adds to the warming of the planet. 

Severe storms and rising sea levels affect coastal nations, none more than Bangladesh.

Bangladesh sits at thirty feet above sea level and protected by a series of dikes from the rising ocean.  The nation is a great risk against severe cyclones and the rising seas.  Estimates of a three-foot rise or greater in sea levels threatens Bangladesh through sea water affecting local water tables and invading crop lands, making it difficult to raise crops.  Threats of powerful cyclones rampaging across Bangladesh raises concerns of creating great numbers of refugees in the wake of these storms.  The very worst estimates show that Bangladesh will be mostly seawater or devastated by constant storms, leaving approximately 20 million refugees without homes. 

20 million refugees without homes streaming into India or Southeast Asia is a nightmare for those dealing with national security.  What will be done with these refugees who no longer have a home to return?  Where will they be relocated?  Will the stress of the influx of refugees have an adverse impact on the infrastructure of the neighboring nations leading to instability in the region?  These questions weigh heavily on the minds of security think tanks now studying the effects of climate change on security doctrines.

Even in the United States, dangers of rising sea levels are relevant.  For example, Norfolk, Virginia, the home of the Atlantic fleet and thirty percent of the US Navy's assets.  Norfolk is built on a filled in marsh and is currently feeling the effects of natural sinking matched with rising tides.  If Norfolk is no longer a suitable location for a base, six Nimitz class carriers and her escorts will have to find a new home that can handle the immense draft of the nuclear powered carriers. 

Norfolk and Bangladesh are not the only area affected; a majority of the world's population is located in close proximity to the oceans of the world.  Rising seas not only consume land but it also taints the local freshwater reservoirs.  Massive numbers of persons will be forced to move away from the coast in developed in lesser-developed nations.  These migrations will create stresses on the infrastructure of other nations, some greater than others. 

The concern will be those stresses on less developed nations and the potential of extremist groups taking advantage of the unfolding situation. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A few quick thoughts

This post is unrelated to the "Climate Change and National Security Issues" series I'm trying to put together here, but perhaps in a way there is a attenuated relationship. Maybe. Maybe not.

It appears that there is a lot of resistance from one party on dealing with ending the Bush Era Tax cuts for those making $250k and greater. I had the joy of watching via The Young Turks ( Rep. Michelle Bachmann (MN-8) go on about how ending the Bush era tax cuts would hurt plumbers who work with one or two family members. I'm not a wizard at tax law (seeing that I have not taken tax here in law school and probably will not), but I'm pretty sure that Rep. Bachmann is confusing personal tax with business tax. But as Rep. Prior in Bill Mahr's "Religiulous" stated: "There's no IQ test for Congress." Oh if it wasn't for the constitution...

In other news the GOP bloc in the Senate is seeking to block the ratification of the START Treaty between the United States and Russia. The basic idea of START, as a progeny of the earlier START I and START II treaties is to reduce the size of each nation's nuclear capacity. While the true number of nuclear warheads is still up for debate for those of us without TOP SECRET clearances; one can easily assume that each nation has enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world over at least a couple of thousand times.

Somehow the idea of eliminating those weapons makes plenty of sense to me. But the GOP is terrified at the idea of reducing the amount of the destructive weapons that were within the reach of one moron from popping off into the night. Without naming names, the general consensus is that by reducing the number of nuclear weapons we currently have in our arsenal, we are weakening our ability to defend the US with the old Cold War theme of "Self Assured Mutual Destruction."

The problem is that it is no longer a nuclear standoff between the Soviet Union and the United States that holds the world in a death grip of fear. The real problem is radical terrorism, unstable states, warlords with too much power that are threats to the modern civilization we all enjoy.

The true motivation besides reducing the numbers of nuclear weapons in our arsenal is to limit the ability for terrorists or unstable nations to have the opportunity to gain access of nuclear material that can be upgraded for use in weapons. That's the main fear. By having greater oversight in the actual numbers in each nation's arsenals and by reducing those weapons available, it cuts down on those opportunities for terrorist organizations to gain access to nuclear material.

But I guess the GOP only likes to raise the spectre of terrorism only when it suits their political purposes.

I could go on about how the GOP is attempting to block unemployment benefits for the thousands of unemployed Americans who need help. Or how the Senate is not moving forth in repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT). But I have to be somewhere in a few minutes.

Well, at least Rep. Ron Paul (TX) is seeking to protect the dignity of Americans travelers from the 4th Amendment violator in airports across the US.

More to be posted.