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the climate wars will be drive by many factors, but three above all

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Climate wars will be driven by many factors, but three above all.

We’ll first see waves of refugees from places that can’t feed themselves anymore. Many refugees coming up from the Middle East and West Africa are already climate refugees, but how could you really tell the difference? Some are fleeing the war in Somalia, others the war in Syria and some are heading north because their farm dried up and blew away in the Sahel. These waves of refugees will expand and put enormous pressure on our international systems. As the flow intensifies and we start slamming borders shut and killing people to keep them out, international relations are likely to get very much uglier than they are right now.

The second big driver is the proliferation of failed states. Governments that cannot feed their people tend not to survive. Look at Somalia — there was a famine in the early 90s and the country never recovered. Now there’s no government, no law, there’s nothing. We won’t have just one or two failed states, but more like 20, in the Caribbean, right across Africa and out through the Middle East into Central Asia … and with it we get pirates, terrorists and all the stuff that goes with it.

The third big effect happens between countries that share a river system, and there are a lot of them. India and Pakistan, but also Egypt and Sudan down near the mouth of the Nile River, versus all the countries upstream — Iraq and Syria downstream on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers versus Turkey upstream. Turkey is getting a free ride right now because neither Iraq nor Syria are in a position to protest militarily against what the Turks have done — they’ve built 12 enormous dams across the headwaters of the Tigress River — two years ago there was no water in the Euphrates, none. Agriculture was shut down in Northern Iraq but nobody heard about it, nobody starved, because Iraq has oil — they just bought the food they needed. Then you’ve got China building dams like crazy at the top of the Mekong river system with all the Indo-Chinese countries below. All of these are potential conflict scenarios and it all comes down to food — all these scenarios are driven by food. I can see huge mayhem and larger use of violence in the future, and I’m perfectly prepared to believe that would include nuclear violence, but more likely it will be the death of a thousand cuts … most things are.

— Gwynne Dyer is an independent journalist, military historian and the author of numerous books including Climate Wars.

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