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US Generals warn of climate change dangers

By John Parnell

A leading group of US security experts has warned of the imminent threat of climate change in an open letter to US policymakers.

Signatories include former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, General Wesley Clark, Richard Armitage, George W. Bush’s Deputy Secretary of State and Anthony Zinni, a retired four star general in the Marine Corps.

“We, the undersigned Republicans, Democrats and Independents, implore US policymakers to support American security and global stability by addressing the risks of climate change in vulnerable nations. Their plight is our fight; their problems are our problems,” it says.

“Without precautionary measures, climate change impacts abroad could spur mass migrations, influence civil conflict and ultimately lead to a more unpredictable world.

“In fact, we may already be seeing signs of this as vulnerable communities in some of the most fragile and conflict-ridden states are increasingly displaced by floods, droughts and other natural disasters.”

The PSA has warned that climate change could “lead to a more unpredictable world” (Source: Flickr/US DoD)

Partnership for a Secure America (PSA), a bi-partisan group focused on solving US Security challenges, warns that changing conditions could force mass migrations on an unprecedented scale.

“If we have difficulty figuring out how to deal with immigration today, look at the prospects for the glacial retreats in the Andes,” said R. James Woolsey, former head of the CIA, at an event to launch the letter.

“The glaciers are not doing well…If that starts to go away, we will have millions upon millions of southern neighbours hungry, thirsty, with crops failing and looking for some place in the world they can go,” he said.

The UK and Pakistan recently attempted to put climate change in the sights of the UN Security Council but were faced with pushback from Russia and China who insisted on keeping any discussions informal.

Some analysts have argued that the Arab Spring was linked in part to climate change related pressures on water and food resources.

A report by the Overseas Development Institute released last week exposes the shortfall in funding for disaster preparedness and the link between conflict and natural disaster, climate induced or otherwise.

“If you’re in a context where there is violence or upheaval, there is evidence that suggests natural disaster can increase the risk of conflict,” the report’s author Katie Harris told RTCC.

Where conflict is already underway, people are more vulnerable to its effects.

“You won’t have right services in place to allow you to respond, you don’t necessarily have a government that wants to protect you. So if a disaster strikes, you are being hit by two stones at once,” said Harris.

“People tend to only be able to be able to get funding in response to a disaster or conflict. There’s a really big gap in funding to do work in advance of a disaster or a conflict,” she added.

The Partnership for a Secure America’s open letter on the threat of climate change 

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