Panel: Climate change is already eroding global, national security

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Climate change has already contributed to instability around the world, said Andrew Holland, a senior fellow at the American Security Project, on Nov. 1.

It hasn't precisely caused conflicts, but it has accelerated them in Syria and India, said Holland at an event about climate and security at the Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

Syria recently suffered its worst drought on record over 5 years ending in 2011. Because of the drought, more than 1 million people moved from the countryside to cities, which exacerbated urban problems and ethnic and religious strife. Drought by no means caused the Arab Spring, Holland said, but it did create conditions that fueled it Syria.

The results of climate change in Bangladesh have also aggravated conflicts there, he said. Bangladesh is particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise--a 45-centimeter rise would cause the country to lose about 11 percent of its land mass, where 5.5 million people live.

As environmental problems in Bangladesh have increased lately, so has migration to bordering India, Holland said. Sectarian strife in that border region has led to dozens of deaths this year, and it seems likely that natural disasters or sea-level rise would exacerbate the problems.

All the while, the U.S. military may be less equipped to deal with overseas conflict as it devotes some of its resources to recovery from domestic disasters, said retired Army Brig. Gen. Steven Anderson, also on the panel.

"There's a tremendous operational impact associated with climate change here at home," Anderson said, when the military assists with domestic recovery, as the National Guard, reservists, and active-duty troops have done in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

"Think of all the resources...that soldiers are providing right now, which are all necessary of course, but of course they also detract them from what they're really supposed to be doing"--preparing to defend the nation in wars, he said.

If natural disasters do increase in frequency, Anderson added, the military will spend more of its finite time and resources on emergency response and have less to devote to global threats.

For more:
- go to the report the American Security Project released at the event

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