Climate Wars

Authors of the landmark 2009 climate study “The Copenhagen Diagnosis” estimated that by 2020 industrial nations must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by around 40% below 1990 levels to secure a decent chance of avoiding dangerous human interference with the climate system. The report concluded that global mean warming could reach as high as 7 degrees Celsius by 2100.

  • Both the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are losing mass and contributing to sea-level rise at an increasing rate.
  • The area of summer sea ice remaining during 2007-2009 was about 40% less than the average projection from the 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report.
  • Global sea-level rise may exceed 1 meter by 2100. Without significant mitigation, sea-level rise of several meters is to be expected over the next few centuries.
  • If long-term global warming is to be limited to a maximum of 2°Celsius above preindustrial values, average annual per-capita emissions in industrialized nations will have to be reduced by around 80-95% below 1990 levels by 2050.

The report concludes that global emissions must peak then decline rapidly within the next five to ten years for the world to have a reasonable chance of avoiding the very worst impacts of climate change. The full report is available at:

The world cannot afford continuing political polarization on the issue of anthropogenic climate change. Canada’s “aspirational” goal of 3% below the 1990 level by 2020 is disastrous. It puts us straight onto the path toward Gwynne Dyer‘s projected Climate Wars.  If you applaud the failure at COP15 in Copenhagen please consider the consequences. How do you propose that our descendants deal with millions of climate refugees, some of whom might be armed with nuclear weapons? That’s not beyond the realm of possibility if we fail to mitigate and adapt to human-caused climate change. The Copenhagen inaction leads us directly down the disastrous road envisioned, with a 3-degree rise inevitable. I recommend listening to Gwynne Dyer’s Climate Wars, in 3 one-hour segments of the CBC Ideas program:

Global warming is moving much more quickly than scientists thought it would. Even if the biggest current and prospective emitters – the United States, China and India – were to slam on the brakes today, the earth would continue to heat up for decades. At best, we may be able to slow things down and deal with the consequences, without social and political breakdown. Gwynne Dyer examines several radical short- and medium-term measures now being considered – all of them controversial.

About 2 years ago I noticed that the military in various countries, and especially in the Pentagon, were beginning to take climate change seriously. Now, it’s the business of the military to find new security threats. It’s also in their own self-interest, since they need a constant supply of threats in order to justify their demands on the taxpayers’ money, so you should always take the new threats that the soldiers discover with a grain of salt. You know, never ask the barber whether you need a haircut.

But I did start to look into this idea that global warming could lead to wars. It turned into a year-long trek talking to scientists, soldiers and politicians in a dozen different countries. I have come back from that trip seriously worried, and there are four things I learned that I think you ought to know.

  • The first is that a lot of the scientists who study climate change are in a state of suppressed panic these days. Things seem to be moving much faster than their models predicted.
  • The second thing is that the military strategists are right. Global warming is going to cause wars, because some countries will suffer a than others. That will make dealing with the global problem of climate change a lot harder.
  • The third is that we are probably not going to meet the deadlines. The world’s countries will probably not cut their greenhouse gas emissions enough, in time, to keep the warming from going past 2 degrees celsius. That is very serious.
  • And the fourth thing is that it may be possible to cheat on the deadlines. I think we will need a way to cheat, at least for a while, in order to avoid a global disaster.” [He’s referring to geo-engineering]

Climate Wars is also available in pocketbook form – ISBN 978-0-307-35584-3 from Vintage Canada.

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5 Responses to Climate Wars

  1. canadianclimatehawk says:

    Climate wars is sober reading to say the least My Dwyer believes that governments will do nothing until we are well past some major tipping points. Given what is happening in the US which is in full flight retreat into a world of illusion and fantasy I fear he is right.

  2. rmcpiper says:

    One of the scenarios imagined by Dyer (and the reason I chose the picture of a nuclear explosion) is particularly frightening. India and Pakistan have an agreement for the sharing of water which flows through both countries, originating from melting in the Himalayas, flowing first through India (Jammu and Kashmir) and then into Pakistan before reaching the ocean. As population swells increasing demand and as the water flow lessens because of climate change, there is a risk that they might go to war over water.

    Dyer hypothesizes that if they escalated to a nuclear exchange, perhaps exploding 100 nuclear weapons, one of the results would have global implications, plunging the entire world into a nuclear autumn (not quite a nuclear winter) by partially blocking sunlight for several years and resulting in plunging temperatures worldwide. This would have a disastrous impact in the vast destruction of crops essential to food. Millions could die not just in India and Pakistan but everywhere on Earth.

    Given the constant tension between these two countries the scenario seems to me to be a frightening possibility. The cause would be diminishing water resulting from human-caused climate change. What more incentive do we need; shouldn’t we take action globally to mitigate the impact by trying to avoid temperature rise which could result in such catastrophic results?

  3. Christine says:

    Your prolific output is making the rest of us Canadian climate change bloggers look like laggards!
    Thanks for the link to this review. (FYI -the CBC link to the podcasts isn’t working).

  4. MoS says:

    I’m less troubled by the India/Pakistan issue than the India/China standoff in the Himalayas. There is a border dispute in Arunachal Pradash, an Indian province that holds access to some Himalayan headwaters. China claims much of that province as their own. Both sides have mustered army formations along the disputed border.

    There is a major arms war underway between China and India, both countries furiously launching Blue Water navies to contest control of the Indian Ocean and access to trade routes to the Middle East. The US is backing India while China has retaliated by backing Pakistan and providing at least some support for Iran.

    If war breaks out between the two it could well begin in Arunachal Pradesh.

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