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. 

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