A refugee crisis on an “unimaginable scale” will make mass migration the “new normal” and climate change the security threat of the 21st century if global warming doesn’t receive immediate attention, an international group of senior military officials warned last week.
“Military leaders have long warned that global warming could multiply and accelerate security threats around the world by provoking conflicts and migration. They are now warning that immediate action is required,” The Guardian reports. “The generals said the impacts of climate change were already factors in the conflicts driving a current crisis of migration into Europe, having been linked to the Arab Spring, the war in Syria, and the Boko Haram terrorist insurgency.”
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“Climate change is the greatest security threat of the 21st century,” said Maj Gen Munir Muniruzzaman, former military advisor to the president of Bangladesh and chair of the Global Military Advisory Council on climate change. A metre of sea level rise will flood 20% of his country, he said, adding that “we’re going to see refugee problems on an unimaginable scale, potentially above 30 million people.”
“We’re already seeing migration of large numbers of people around the world because of food scarcity, water insecurity, and extreme weather, and this is set to become the new normal,” added Brig. Gen. Stephen Cheney, CEO of the American Security Project and advisor to the U.S. State Department’s foreign affairs policy board. “Climate change impacts are also acting as an accelerant of instability in parts of the world on Europe’s doorstep, including the Middle East and Africa.”
“This is not a concern for tomorrow. The impacts are playing out today,” agreed Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti, UK climate and energy security envoy and former commander of his country’s maritime forces. “Climate change is a strategic security threat that sits alongside others like terrorism and state-on-state conflict, but it also interacts with these threats,” a factor that makes it “complex and challenging”.
Cheney said countries will pay for climate change one way or another, and “the best way to pay for it is by tackling the root causes of climate change and cutting greenhouse gas emissions. If we do not, the national security impacts will be increasingly costly and challenging.”