Posts Tagged ‘systems thinking’

Last month, the Center for Strategic and International Studies released an important report on ‘The Age of Consequences: The Foreign Policy and National Security Implications of Global Climate Change‘, the result of months long conversations between ‘nationally recognized leaders in the fields of climate science, foreign policy, political science, oceanography, history, and national security. The CSIS report takes the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report one step further, and paints likely scenarios for the “age of consequences”, one that will increasingly be defined by the intersection of climate change and the security of nations.’

According to the report, the world should be prepared for the following ‘10 highly consequential implications of climate change‘:

1) Soft power and North-South tensions will increase.

‘A failure of the developed nations to assist developing countries to manage the climate change challenge will almost certainly cause a further spike in north-south tensions.

2) Migration and immigration will rise, producing a strong backlash.

‘A profound increase in the movement of people will cause greater tensions and perhaps violent conflicts between and within countries over uncontrolled immigration issues.’

3) Public health problems will grow.

‘Climate change will also have profoundly negative consequences for global health, especially in poorer regions of the world.’

4) Resource conflicts and vulnerabilities will intensify.

‘Over the next three decades, climate change-exacerbated water scarcity could well contribute to instability in many regions of the world.’

‘Climate change could also affect the international politics of energy production and consumption.

5) Nuclear activity will increase, with attendant risks.

‘many developing countries will begin operating their own commercial nuclear reactors during the next few decades. This would increase the total number of nuclear reactors around the world, including those under the control of nations that may lack the experience to safely conduct these operation. The threat of global climate change also provides governments interested in acquiring nuclear weapons yet another justification to pursue nuclear-related research and nuclear technologies.’

6) Challenges to global governance will intensify.

‘the United Nations and other existing international institutions will have great difficulty managing the full range of adverse consequences. The implication of new international alignments driven by environmental factors are uncertain, but the complex and inherently divisive nature of climate change is likely to impede collective responses.

7) Domestic political repercussions and state failure will occur.

‘Political authorities unable to manage climate-induced challenges might well lose necessary public support. National leaders professing authoritarian ideologies could become more attractive if liberal democratic systems fail to marshal sufficient political will to manage the climate challenge. In some instances people might resort to violent means-especially when opportunities to change leaders through elections are circumscribed-to remove existing governments. In a few places people might turn to non-state actors, including religious movements or terrorist groups for comfort or to effect more dramatic change. Moreover, under conditions of severe global climate change, environmental factors may push already failed states deeper into the abyss of ungovernability, while driving other states toward the brink.’

8) The balance of power will shift in unpredictable ways.

‘Over the long term, the very divergent regional effects of climate change could affect the evolving global distribution of power with unpredictable consequences for international security.’

9) China’s role will be critical.

‘Many members of the international community are calling on Beijing to adopt more rigorous policies to limit the growth of China’s carbon emissions to reflect the country’s status as an emerging global stakeholder sharing the burdens of world leadership. Some of these appeals have been less than effective as China’s reasoning that the United States is not showing itself to be serious still holds. According to the World Bank, 16 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities are in China.’

10) The United States must come to terms with climate change.

‘the unique character of the American people, with the depths of optimism and penchant for practicality, will be a major asset.’

If there is one thing to take away from this report, it is the need for a systems approach to the climate change solution. One cannot stress enough the pivotal role to be played by the United State within the world system of nations.

The report ends on a positive note:

‘While all those who collaborated in this study completed the process with a profound sense of urgency, we also collectively are encouraged that there is still time for the United States and the international community to plan an effective response to prevent, mitigate, and where possible adapt, to global climate change.’

To be tempered by Machiavelli’s cautionary wisdom, as quoted in the report’s preface:

“The Romans did in these instances what all prudent princes ought to do, who have to regard not only present troubles, but also future ones, for which they must prepare with every energy, because, when foreseen, it is easy to remedy them; but if you wait until they approach, the medicine is no longer in time because the malady has become incurable; for it happens in this, as the physicians say it happens in hectic fever, that in the beginning of the malady it is easy to cure but difficult to detect, but in the course of time not having been either detected or treated in the beginning, it becomes easy to detect but difficult to cure. Thus it happens in affairs of state, for when the evil that arise have be3n foreseen (which it is only given to a wise man to see), they can be quickly redressed, but when, through not having been foreseen, they have been permitted to grow in a way that every one can see them, there is no longer a remedy.”

For more on The Age of Consequences report, I suggest you go to Real Climate, and read David’s post there.

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