Climate change compounds global security threat, British admiral says
Families in drought striken Somalia await food rations Photo By: AFP/Getty Images
September 28th, 2011
07:22 PM ET

Climate change compounds global security threat, British admiral says

By CNN's Richard T. Griffiths

Stresses from global climate change are increasing the threat of wars around the world, a British admiral said Wednesday.

Royal Navy Rear Adm. Neil Morisetti told students and faculty at Georgia Institute of Technology that global climate change threats to food, water, land and energy will present substantive security challenges in regions of the world where there are already stresses.

"Those climate stress multipliers are increasing the threat of armed conflict around the world," Morisetti said.

Morisetti pointed out that existing stress points form a band around the globe, running from Central and South America, across Africa, the Middle East and south Asia. That band, he said, intersects with the regions of the globe most susceptible to climate change.

With climate change, Morisetti said, "we're going to add more to that cocktail."

Morisetti, who holds the title of the British government's climate and energy security envoy, is on a tour of the United States, speaking to academics and military officials.

He says climate change represents a significant challenge for governments because the "new and emerging threat doesn't fit into the traditional stovepipe of governments.

"It's a threat that won't manifest for the next 15 to 20 years, which means that you have to look at potential threats, not particular threats."

"Part of the problem is to get people to understand that there is a problem," he said, and governments and the public "have to be able to see the opportunities, not just the threats."

Governments will have to work together to deal with the problem, he said.

"Climate change just doesn't recognize national or international boundaries."

The recent pattern of global weather-related disasters illustrate how climate change is already putting pressure on military forces to help with rescue and disaster-recovery missions, Morisetti said.

As a Royal Navy admiral, Morisetti also says he sees soaring energy costs affecting the ability of governments and their military forces to be able to adequately respond to security threats.

He described how one of his former commands, the aircraft carrier HMS Invincible, required an imperial gallon (1.2 U.S. gallons) of fuel to move just 12 inches. If fuel prices spike, he said, it would not be financially cost-effective to operate.

"We just couldn't do it."

To compensate, military forces must develop new fuel sources, Morisetti said.

As to how soon and precisely where global climate change would present a security threat, Morisetti was not willing to make guesses.

"I can't tell you when or where," he said, "but they will happen."

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