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Diplomatic Preemption of Environmental Conflicts

Published: November 9, 2008, Author: MHirch

The Kansas City Star reported today what has for sometime been observed by scholars and diplomats: climate change, especially rapid changes are changing environments in such a way as to force whole populations to move into each other’s territories…thus giving rise to greater competition for foods, space and water.  The competition grows into conflicts and eventually violence. Instead of “preemptive war” as US President George Bush  has advocated, the world needs “preemptive diplomacy.”

Here are the conditions the Kansas City Star summarizes in its Sunday edition, that studies indicate are increasing pressures on populations:

•People see their fertile land turn arid and migrate — packing them closer to historical and newfound adversaries.

•Countries already weak or crippled by corruption tip into chaos with even moderate climate change. Crop failures spur violent uprisings and give new energy to ethnic grudges in the face of famine.

•Competition for resources — food, water, oil — grows more tense in times of scarcity.

•Economic collapse in North Africa gives rise to Islamist extremism as blame for climate change focuses on the West. By accident of history and geography, Islamic countries feel the first profound effects of climate change.

•Flooding of coastal areas — particularly in South Asia and the United States — force severe migration and alter regional and even national identities.

•A push to revive the nuclear power industry — as a way to find energy that doesn’t belch more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere — masks rogue countries’ efforts to build atomic weapons.

Diplomacy that preempts conflict, diverts conflict to peaceful solutions must become a priority of every country. Colleges and universities as well as think tanks ought to strengthen their international relations programs to support greater diplomatic capacity to increase the ability of stronger and more stable states to diplomatically intervene in weaker countries that are threatened by environmental conflicts. These conflicts will naturally emerge in environmentally challenged regions of the world and they will include subregions in stable and unstable states. Fourth World nations will be at the center of most of these conflicts since their territories are often the most sensitive to environmental change. Special diplomatic skills will be needed to successfully minimize conflicts. Diplomatic preemption will minimize the tendency toward violence and when supplemented by intelligent environmental, social and economic policies such intervention will reduce the use of war as a means of solving political problems.

The new governments in Europe, China, India, Africa, South America and North America must establish international diplomatic cooperation to meet this new and threatening challenge with intelligence and maturity.

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