Chris Huhne tries to re-frame climate scare by linking it to national security in the hope of reviving flagging green campaign.
Global warming will threaten Britain’s security by triggering wars, food shortages and mass migration, Energy Minister Chris Huhne warned today.
Although the UK may escape the worst physical impacts of rising temperatures and sea levels, the UK will still be exposed to ‘alarming and shocking’ consequences of climate change elsewhere, he said.
The warning comes as Ministers are preparing a White Paper that will usher in a new wave of nuclear power stations and a massive expansion of wind farms to cut Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions.
In a speech to the Royal United Services think tank, Mr Huhne warned that climate change was a ‘systemic threat’
‘With luck, the UK may well escape the worst physical impacts,’ he said. ‘But in a connected world, we will be exposed to the global consequences. And they are both alarming and shocking.’
The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change forecasts that world temperatures could rise between 1.1C and 6C this century, increasing sea levels by seven to 23 inches and making heat waves, droughts and floods more common.
Mr Huhne said global warming will undermine food, water and energy security, and affect health and political stability.
He added: ‘Political solutions will become harder to broker; conflicts more likely. A world where climate change goes unanswered will be more unstable, more unequal, and more violent.
‘The knock-on effects will not stop at our borders. Climate change will affect our way of life – and the way we order our society. It threatens to rip out the foundations on which our security rests.’
He warned that the coming decades will bring higher temperatures, rising seas, droughts, heat waves, floods and variable rainfall unless carbon emissions are tackled by 2020.
The changing climate will add to the pressure on farming, which is already expected to face a 70 per cent rise in the demand for food by 2050 because of the rising population.
‘For developed economies, this will mean higher prices; for agrarian economies in the developing world, it could be catastrophic,’ Mr Huhne said.
The world has already seen riots and revolts caused by soaring food prices, he said..
In 2008 the price of cereals hit a 30 year peak, trigging riots in Bangladesh and Egypt. Food inflation contributed to revolutions in North Africa earlier this year.
Climate change will also put pressure on scarce water supplies and have a direct effect on the health of people facing rising temperatures and more frequent, severe heat waves.
The 2003 European heat wave caused 35, 000 excess deaths – including 2,000 deaths in Britain.
The shortages of food and water will exacerbate ‘existing weaknesses and tensions around the world’, shifting the tipping point at which conflicts ignites, he said.
‘Around the world, a military consensus is emerging,’ he said. ‘Climate change is a ‘threat multiplier’. It will make unstable states more unstable. Poor nations poorer. Inequality more pronounced, and conflict more likely. And the areas of most geopolitical risk are also most at risk of climate change.’
It will also trigger the long term displacement of people from parts of the world that are no longer habitable, he said.
Benny Peiser, of the sceptical Global Warming Policy Foundation, said: ‘This is an attempt by Chris Huhne to re-frame the climate scare by linking it to national security.
‘He is not alone in applying this new tactic. In recent months, green campaigners have focused attention on security issues in the hope of reviving their flagging campaign.
‘Public concern and media coverage of climate change has dropped significantly in the last 12-18 months. In response, green groups have concluded that accentuating national security may give the issue greater immediacy, not least among conservative voters who are more sceptical about environmental scares but more open to security concerns.
‘We are dealing with a very speculative linkage given that warmer periods, historically, have been more peaceful than colder periods.’
Background info about the Climate Wars Myth
- Bruno Tertrais: The Climate Wars Myth
- Ben Buckland: Stopping the Securitisation of Global Climate Change
- Framing Climate Change as a National Security Threat
- U.N. Security Council to Take Up Climate Change