Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Climate change conflict: more likely than you thought

“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world .... as in being able to remake ourselves.”

Mohandas Gandhi

All proceeds from the sale of 2023 go to charities promoting renewable energy.
You can buy it here

In the novel 2023, Australia is isolated in the world. It is threatened by the new, clean, green economies. They have lost tolerance with Australia’s continuing persistence in both burning fossil fuels and exporting them to those parts of the world that continue to burn them. India and China, and Europe have transformed their energy systems to almost completely renewable. The rest of the world, lead by Australia, lags behind.

Just this week, in Australia, we have had news of climate change scientists being moved to a secure location as a result of death threats. Sectors of the media have created a whole atmosphere of “hate speech” surrounding climate change.  Still, it is a long way from the scenarios of 2023. Even with the space of ten years for these sores to fester, it is hard to imagine serious conflict.

The modern understanding of conflict seeks to look for fundamental underlying causes. Jared Diamond’s work, especially Collapse looks at the ecological and geographical causes of conflict. He shows clearly that in many cases the causes of conflict are quite physical, and arise from climatic change factors. So when people talk of conflict and climate change, they think of water shortages, and energy shortages. As if conflict must come from an underlying resource conflict, or a trade dispute.

But let’s return to the hate speech. When the hate speech escalates, where does it end? I’ve had the good fortune to meet and get to know people from all over the world. People who have fled conflict to settle in Australia. They understand exactly where hate speech leads. It leads inevitably to conflict. At it's heart, this is a serious dispute. Not the global warfare type of dispute, but still serious.

It’s all about ideas. Are humans responsible for climate change? If they are, what should we do about it? For the first time in history we somehow have to come together and act globally on an issue that fundamentally affects us all. Many assume that because we have dealt with such issues since 1945 successfully, that we will do so again. This is a very naive assumption.

It is 2023 and you have just invested $300B in a renewable energy capacity. But the Australians, the fossil fuel countries, are recklessly determined to trash the planet. What will you do?

It is 2023 and you are a green activist. It is painfully evident that the planet itself is in peril. What will you do?

The danger in conflict on the issue of climate change is very simple. You can see the beginnings of it already.  Somehow we have to find a way to the future that avoids this conflict. It won’t be easy.

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