Change Alley

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Climate Change Terrorism

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At a London conference on ‘Climate Change: the Global Security Impact’, security and climate experts said on Wednesday that global warming has the potential to divide the world’s rich and poor still further, radicalising populations and fanning terrorism in the worst affected countries.

Sir Crispin Tickell, Britain’s former UN ambassador, said terrorists would use desperate measures to exploit tensions created by rising sea levels and shortages of food and water.

John Mitchell, chief scientist at Britain’s Met Office, noted that al Qaeda had already included environmental damage on its list of grievances against the US.

In a “letter to the American people” in 2002, Osama bin Laden wrote:

“You have destroyed nature with your industrial waste and gases more than any other nation in history. Despite this, you refuse to sign the Kyoto agreement so that you can secure the profit of your greedy companies and industries”.

Ironically, having been obsessed for so long with fighting terrorism while ignoring climate change, the US government may now face a new wave of terrorism directly caused by climate change.

We live in interesting times.


Written by Pete Smith

January 26, 2007 at 6:59 pm

6 Responses

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  1. … and then there’s the thought that Islamists & environmentalists may one day meet up under a starry desert night for a little chat …


    January 26, 2007 at 8:01 pm

  2. I only found this link
    to your topic & it’s not terribly well written.

    Apparently Syria & Israel have been having secret little chats over the last 3-4 years about various important things. One of them is regards access to fresh water. Liquid gold.


    January 26, 2007 at 8:33 pm

  3. The full program of the conference can be found here

    A fuller report on proceedings can be found here

    Pete Smith

    January 27, 2007 at 10:23 am

  4. The Reuters link is much the same in content as the yahoo link. The program link didn’t work unfortunately.

    My main reaction to this conference is ‘why?’. It says nothing new & appears not to have a point to make that is particularly useful. Obviously whole civilisations have been going into melt down since silting & salination destroyed the water canals & therefore the water sources for the cities of Mesopotamia 1000s of years ago.

    OK, we are looking possibly at this happening on a far larger scale over this century, across the globe and involving 100s of millions of people. There are however countries that have lived on the edge for some time now (for decades if not 100s of years) and therefore this is nothing new.

    The conference links this increased vulnerability to its exploitation by terrorists, both local & internationally organised. Surely this is no surprise either. Desperation supports the creation of such groups. Egypt is full of such groups. One only has to travel off the beaten track along the Nile slightly to feel the tension in the air, as I did in 1992. A few years later tourists were being murdered in cold blood.

    The conference then warns that hoards of ‘environmental refugees’ will come a knocking at our door. Well, they already are & have been for decades. Yes, in some quarters there has been a sudden surge over the last 12 months. The beaches of Tenerife and southern Spain are testament to the desperation of west Africans trying to reach the European streets ‘paved with gold’.

    Rather than spend all their energies in a conference being alarmist I would prefer to know how they intend to alleviate & better still, resolve the problems being experienced by the African peoples. There are practical examples available; Sierra Leone is one, where the UK government didn’t just resolve the 10 year conflict, they have stayed on to build much needed institutions and the capacity for free elections, as well as a functioning economy.

    Much needs to be done but, exhaling hot air within a London conference about something we already know isn’t one of them.


    January 27, 2007 at 11:00 am

  5. “Why?”. Are you asking me? The conference was organised by the Royal United Services Institute, which promotes itself as “the leading forum in the UK for national and international Defence and Security. Founded in 1831 by the Duke of Wellington, RUSI is the oldest institute of its kind in the world”. A quick look at the list of RUSI council members shows the sort of chap we’re dealing with here.

    There’s a number of points here. First, military types may not be as quick on the uptake on the implications of climate change as global thinkers like yourself Matt. It may be “hot air about something we already know” to you and me, but these guys need to be told. Second, yes, environmental refugees are nothing new, but terrorism on purely environmental grounds is. Third, as you say, the scale of climate-related disruption is set to increase massively, as is the resolve and capacity of terrorists. Bear in mind that climate change is not a racial or ideological issue, it’s a matter of survival and one that can unite disparate groups. Fourth, it simply isn’t within RUSI’s remit to “alleviate and resolve the problems being experienced by the African peoples”. RUSI is a military and security policy think tank and talking shop.

    Pete Smith

    January 27, 2007 at 12:37 pm

  6. No, I wasn’t asking you ‘why’ in particular. So, RUSI is behind this particular conference. Fair enough. They seem to have a lot of input into decision maker’s minds regards security issues. The fact that climate change & its possible effects are on its agenda shows just how widely this issue has started to influence the thinking of UK society.

    On a side note. It’s always interesting to see how priveleged people within UK society move with such ease between national & international institutions. For example (taken from RUSI website);

    Sir David Veness CBE QPM
    Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security, United Nations, and former Assistant Commissioner for Specialist Operations, Metropolitan Police.


    January 27, 2007 at 1:49 pm

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