Is There Anybody Out There? The Link Between Climate Change and War

Sometimes I wonder if there is not enough evidence to force change. Just do the math – a sick planet (I recommend you see Leonardo DiCaprio’s Before the Flood, released on October 30 2016), a growing demography that will lead us to ten billion inhabitants by 2050, an increasing number of radicalisms (ideologies, religions, nationalisms), more fragile States, more civil unrest, less confidence in global, regional and local politics, and an increasing difficulty in making global decisions and solving common challenges. Hence the question, well phrased by Pink Floyd: Is there anybody out there?

Climate change and war

The cases of Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen, Lybia… do not amount to just conflict and radicalism. They are a growing face of a wider problem: climate change can cause war, as more people and less water and food can provoke conflicts. Maybe it is not the simple cause, or even the main reason for this, but it can certainly fuel a crisis, aggravate the resolution of problems and slow down peace and stability. It is just not possible any longer to study a conflict through one single dimension.

One needs only to do the math: there are different interests from an increasing numbers of actors, geopolitical ambitions, historical claims, new and old ideologies, anomy or lack of willingness to be part of something, scarce resources, a lot of money to be made, and so on.

However, there are two parts of the equation that are generating a hugely unbalanced result, and that are being ignored: demography and climate change. These are not entorely new factors, but their extreme dimension is a monstrous novelty of the twenty-first century. Call it accelerators, conflict fuel, or exponential factors, there is no denying: this exists. The reality, shown by academic evidence, is forcing us to change the way in which we devise plans to solve crises, conflicts, and war.

Everything is global

A piracy attack, some action by a radical jihadist terrorist group, or an interstate war can all be fueled and accelerated by demographic and climate changes effects. The paradox is that, as a global attitude, there is no global will to really try to look at these growing problems. They might appear local to many people, but they are, in fact, our global, regional, and local problem.

Is there anybody out there?

We hope so. We certainly can solve our problems: there is human intelligence, an immense amount of technology, and the willingness of people to bring about change! We just need to find the answer for the call… Is there anybody out there?

Desert, Photo by Pixabay / CC0 Public Domain

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Nuno Lemos Pires

Researcher at CEI-IUL. Professor at the Portuguese Military Academy (PMA). Ph.D. in History, Defence, and IR (ISCTE-IUL and PMA); M.A. in Military Sciences (PMA). Guest lecturer at ISCTE-IUL, U. Nova, IESM, IDN. Professor of Military History and IR at IAEM and AM; Intelligence Officer at NATO / Rapid Deployable Corps (Spain).

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