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Sunday, July 14, 2013
When the Nile delta flooded annually in ancient times, its rising waters destroyed rudimentary property markers and its receding waters deposited sediment, creating additional land. Both phenomena caused confusion and conflict among Egypt’s vital farmers. Consequently, the pharaoh’s scientists developed a primitive mathematical system for measuring dimensions of land, sparking the birth of geometry — earth metrics, a Greek term later coined by Euclid circa 300 B.C.
Four millennia later, the Nile delta continues to teach the world about humanity’s connectedness. Today climate change is causing flooding that disrupts agricultural productivity in the Nile’s precious breadbasket, affecting many lives. More than 300 million Egyptian, Ethiopian and Sudanese lives depend on food from the Nile delta, and outside countries South Korea and Saudi Arabia have purchased farmland in the delta to feed their own citizens.
Our nation’s intelligence and defense agencies have identified climate change and sea level rise as major threats to security in regions with shared watersheds, particularly in the Nile, Indus, Jordan, Mekong, Tigris-Euphrates, Amu Darya and Brahmaputra river basins. The potential for conflict over water and property rights poses acute threats to agricultural, economic, political, military, transportation and cultural institutions and systems, most urgently in Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Sea level rise flooding has already caused millions of Bangladeshis to migrate into India and sub-Saharan Africans to immigrate into Europe, exacerbating existing international stresses.
American military forces often play key roles in mitigating humanitarian crises, safeguarding refugees, alleviating famine, administering medicine and defending state security. Army and navy planners have already spent billions renovating bases, relocating ports, contracting emergency food supplies from allies with arable land and building new storage warehouses in critical hotspots subject to flooding or famine.
Adm. Samuel Locklear, America’s chief Asia-Pacific naval officer, says that climate change, more than poverty, religious strife or nuclear armament, is the greatest threat to regional security. The island of Tarawa in Kiribati is disappearing, necessitating relocation of its entire population. Other top military and intelligence officials share Locklear’s assessment, including Leon Panetta and Robert Gates (former Department of Defense secretaries), Thomas Fingar (chairman of President Bush’s National Intelligence Council), and Gens. Steven Anderson, Gordon Sullivan, Anthony Zinni, Chuck Wald, Bob Barns, Paul Kens, et al.
What should we do to counter climate change? First, address the elephant in the room: anthropocentrically accelerated global warming due to greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fuel consumption, especially coal burning at power plants. Specifically, we need to achieve the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changes’ goal of reducing global carbon dioxide emissions to 350 parts per million by 2025. We currently emit 400 ppm annually, up sharply from 280 ppm during many pre-industrial centuries.
Nature’s cyclical global warming patterns are exacerbated by greenhouse gas emissions, 85 percent of which comes from CO2, and 78 percent of CO2 comes from coal. China (23 percent) and our United States (19 percent) are by far the world’s largest generators of CO2 emissions.
Though essential to sustaining the lives of all 7 billion humans on our planet, only 3 percent of the Earth’s water resources is freshwater, two-thirds of which is locked in glacial ice, and 70 percent of the remaining one-third available for human use goes to agriculture. Though we spend billions on military assistance, humanitarian relief and food aid, America’s consumption of fossil fuels and freshwater looks hypocritical to people impoverished by sea level rise.
Critics allege that President Obama is “waging war on coal” and urge reliance on the free market rather than government to allocate scarce resources. Yet, flexible government regulations on greenhouse gas emissions encourage closure of outdated power plants, financially reward industrial innovation in developing new technology and create new jobs.
Secondly, let’s applaud our prescient intelligence community for its initiative in developing a global database of sophisticated “stress tests” to identify regions most susceptible, vulnerable and resilient to resource degradation. The risks are compelling and costs significant. We can pay now to cure the disease — global warming — or later to alleviate the symptoms — sea level rise. Fortunately, unlike Rome’s Nero, our wise military and intelligence leaders are not fiddling while the world burns.
Thirdly, we need to strengthen — not cut — our national investments in water-saving technology and satellite systems that monitor resource shifts, migration movements, arctic melting and meteorological events. Today, more than ever, we know that what happens in Egypt — whether political revolution or environmental disruption — does not stay in Egypt.
Weather JournalNew batch of moisture for PM