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Greenhouse gas and war: How they are related

Czech President Vaclav Klaus derides global warming as a green scare "is a bit surprised that Al Gore has received a peace prize, because the connection between his activities and world peace are vague and not very clear," his office said icily on Friday.
by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) Oct 14, 2007
How can the Nobel Peace Prize -- intended for those who labour for "fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding of peace congresses" -- be awarded for work on climate change?

Skeptics were swift to raise this question after the planet's most prestigious award went to former US president Al Gore for his campaigning on global warming and the scientists of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Among them was Czech President Vaclav Klaus, who derides global warming as a green scare.

Klaus "is a bit surprised that Al Gore has received a peace prize, because the connection between his activities and world peace are vague and not very clear," his office said icily on Friday.

Many experts, though, feel no surprise at all.

They see an unmistakeable link between carbon pollution and future bloodshed, and welcome efforts to place the spotlight on this largely hidden threat.

"Climate change is one of the most significant issues of our times and one which has major implications for global security as well as our personal health, wealth and well-being," said Martin Taylor, vice president of the Royal Society, Britain's de-facto academy of sciences.

"There is already evidence that climate change is having an impact on access to adequate food and clean water in some areas of the world, potentially increasing the risk of conflict between peoples and nations."

The thinking is this: if greenhouse-gas emissions are unchecked, they could so damage Earth's climate system that fragile economies could be pushed over the edge through crop failure, flooding, storm damage and rising seas.

Societies' faultlines could be ripped open by armies of environmental refugees, and countries could be tempted to take the path of war as they grab rivers and aquifers to ensure their population's survival.

Developing countries, especially those with delta mega-cities, are most vulnerable to climate impacts, the IPCC said earlier this year.

Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, New York, cites the war in Sudan's Darfur as an example where climate change has already driven a badly-stressed region over the brink.

"Darfur is a place that has had about one third of its usual precipitation over the last 50 years, it's also had a big increase in population at the same time, so it is being squeezed badly between falling water availability and rising population," he told AFP in an interview.

"We're going to see a lot of that in the future, because there are a lot of poor, fragile, conflict-ridden or conflict-prone areas, especially in the drylands, that are likely to be in the line of fire, as it were, of climate change."

Potential flashpoints are regions that are already water-stressed and highly populated, and where aridity is likely to worsen as a result of rising temperatures, says Sachs, naming the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia and the drylands of East Africa and Central Asia.

According to a US State Department report in June, more than a billion people in Asia could face reduced water availability by mid-century.

The Stern Review, a 2006 assessment on the economics of climate change authored by British economist Sir Nicholas Stern, quoted estimates of as many as 150-200 million "permanently displaced" environmental refugees by mid-century.

Britain's International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) warned last month that fears about stability -- once hidden by smoke from the debate over the scientific evidence for global warming -- are bound to rise to the top of the agenda.

"The security dimension will come increasingly to the forefront as countries begin to see falls in available resources and economic vitality, increased stress on their armed forces, greater instability in regions of strategic import, increases in ethnic rivalries, and a widening gap between rich and poor," it said.

Former US ambassador to China Joseph Prueher, a retired US admiral, believes that the poverty and turmoil that derive from climate-related disasters will provide fertile ground for terrorism.

"Climate change poses a serious threat to America's national security," said Prueher in testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in May.

"Climate change will exacerbate many of the causes of instability that exist today -- those instabilities are part of the underpinnings of extremism."

He called on the US military to start planning now for a new era of environmentally-spawned security threats, to help mitigate some of the worst impact.

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New Findings Solve Human Origins Mystery
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Oct 11, 2007
An extraordinary advance in human origins research reveals evidence of the emergence of the upright human body plan over 15 million years earlier than most experts have believed. More dramatically, the study confirms preliminary evidence that many early hominoid apes were most likely upright bipedal walkers sharing the basic body form of modern humans. On October 10th, online, open-access journal PLoS ONE will publish the report based on research from Harvard University's Museum of Comparative Zoology and from the Cedars Sinai Institute for Spinal Disorders that connects several recent fossil discoveries to older fossils finds that have eluded adequate explanation in the past.

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