The head of the British armed forces said today that Western armed forces must be ready to deal with the consequences of global warming.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, chief of the defence staff, addressed the Chatham House talking-shop in London. He said that military planners needed to factor in the results of global warming to their calculations, as climate change could cause weak governments to disintegrate, or give rise to mass hardship and a sense of grievance against the world powers.
Handily, however, there was no need for an immediate change of direction on the part of military staff moguls. The very regions which were most likely to be devastated by global warming were the same ones already riven by ordinary sectarian, ethnic and resource-based conflicts.
Reuters quotes the air-marshal as saying:
"Just glance at a map of the areas most likely to be affected [by global warming] and you are struck at once by the fact that they are exactly those parts of the world where we see fragility, instability and weak governance today.
"It seems to me rather like pouring petrol onto a burning fire."
The wire service scribes suggested that this apocalyptic vision might well come true.
"Scientists say average temperatures will rise by between 1.8 and 4.0 degrees Celsius this century ... melting ice caps, bringing floods, droughts and famines, and putting millions of lives at risk," they wrote.
The air marshal implied that the British military has a long-standing policy of getting ready for new threats and problems in advance, well before they actually crop up.
"You don't need to come very much forward from 2040 before, in my terms at least, you are talking about the day after tomorrow," he said.
Sir Jock reportedly felt that the 9/11 attacks illustrated that political, economic and social deprivation could give rise to devastating attacks on Western homelands.
"Now add in the effects of climate change. Poverty and despair multiply, resentment surges and people look for someone to blame," he said.
Curious stuff, if true. After all, the 9/11 terrorists by most accounts were mostly from well-off middle-class Saudi families - thus, mainly dependent on US oil money rather than vulnerable equatorial ecosystems. There are quite a few who'd say that their radicalisation and subsequent murderous assault on the USA followed more from American (and perhaps sometimes UK/European) policy toward Israel than poverty and despair.
That's not to say that starving or flooded-out Third Worlders won't blame the industrial nations for their problems in the event of climatic devastation in future. But they might easily choose to blame China rather than the West - now that China has, by some analyses become the worst carbon emitter.
And based on the track record of the UK armed forces, we might say that if they see the next big threat as being eco-disaster, it's at least fairly likely to be something else entirely.®