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Consequences of global warming in economy, health and geopolitics

Access to the Arctic Ocean

Polar Bear
Source https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Polar_Bear_AdF.jpg

A decrease in Arctic polar ice has opened up new trade routes for ships, and would make undersea resources of oil or raw materials accessible, but with adverse consequences for many species, such as plankton or fish of high commercial value.

Access to these raw materials in now accessible areas may be a source of conflict between coastal countries in the Arctic Ocean. Thus, the United States and Canada protested when, on August 2, 2007, Russia planted its flag at the bottom of the ocean under the North Pole.


The report by Nicholas Stern, an English economist, estimates that global warming would entail an economic cost of 5.5 trillion euros taking into account all generations (present and future) having to suffer the consequences.

In 2007, for the first time, the World Monuments Fund (WMF) introduced climate change into the list of threats to 100 sites, monuments and masterpieces of architecture under threat, the others main threats being wars and political conflicts, and anarchic industrial and urban development.

The Munich Re reinsurer’s report of October 17, 2012 (for the period 1980 to 2011) estimates that North America suffered the sharpest worsening of “financial losses due to weather-related events”, with more than 30,000 deaths and 1,060 billion dollars (820 billion euros) induced by the management and repair of climate disasters. The same report estimated that the number of extreme events has increased fivefold worldwide (and doubled in Europe).

In 2015, economists no longer risk giving figures, but consider the cost potentially infinite. Henri de Castries, president of Axa, said in May 2015, during the Business Summit for Climate: “A world at +2 °C could still be insurable, a world at +4 °C certainly would not be anymore.” According to a 2013 World Bank report, annual loss and damage from climate events increased from $ 50 billion in the 1980s to nearly $ 200 billion in the last decade.


Health consequences of climate phenomena are feared: the fourth report of the IPCC highlights certain effects on human health, such as “heat-related mortality in Europe, vectors of infectious diseases in various regions and allergies to pollen in at middle and high latitudes of the northern hemisphere” or the emergence or re-emergence of infectious and vector diseases.

Climate change is already changing the distribution of many infectious diseases. High temperatures in hot regions may reduce the extent of the parasite responsible for bilharzia. But malaria is reappearing in the north and south of the tropics (in the United States, this disease was generally limited to California, but since 1990, epidemics have appeared in other states, such as Texas, Florida, but also New York, it has also reappeared in areas where it was infrequent, such as southern Europe and Russia or along the Indian Ocean. It is also observed that mosquitoes and diseases they transmit have gained in altitude. The frequency of Lyme disease (due to a spirochete bacterium) is increasing, as well as its geographic extent, in correlation with the increase in the range of its main known vector, the tick.

In a temperate climate, global warming would reduce the number of deaths from cold or respiratory diseases, but increase summer excess mortality during heatwaves. The overall picture is still unknown, as are the effects in terms of life expectancy.

Global geopolitical destabilization

Increased risks of war

According to a 2003 report commissioned by the US Department of Defense and according to a 2007 report by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), global warming could lead to global destabilization phenomena, which would upset geopolitics among states, and increase the risk of civil war.

Global warming and its influence on environmental changes, coupled with political or economic factors, are taken into account in the study of possible forced population migrations.

On June 3, 2009, the United Nations adopted a resolution on “Climate Change and its Possible Impact on Security”.

Western militaries are interested in the consequences of climate change. They are in one of the few sectors whose strategic field of vision is of the order of thirty to fifty years. In their eyes, the ecological crisis will lead to an increase in disasters. Existing institutions will be weakened, especially in developing countries. Some weak states will be unable to provide social and economic stability. “Terrorist” networks will be able to take advantage of the power vacuum and the desperation of people to prosper. The European Union will intervene militarily in its immediate environment (Mediterranean Basin) or in areas of strategic interest such as the Near and Middle East or the Arctic.

Barack Obama said in May 2015:

“Climate change increases the risk of instability and conflict. No nation is spared.”

Climate change accounts for between 20 and 30 million IDPs or refugees each year. Admiral David Titley, an advisor to US climate security agencies, says the climate threat weighs as much, if not more, on US homeland security than the terrorist threat. Changes in rainfall patterns and seasonal droughts in the Sahel, combined with other social, economic and political factors, have pushed pastoral peoples into farming or migrating south or coasts, increasing competition for water and arable land with farming communities or fishermen. The civil war in Darfur (western Sudan) or the proliferation of the Boko Haram terrorist movement in Nigeria has been exacerbated by the impact of climate change on access to resources. Between 2006 and 2011, Syria experienced the worst drought ever recorded in its history, attributed to climate change; pastoralists have seen 85% of their livestock die and agricultural production has collapsed, affecting millions of people, who have had to leave the countryside to live miserably in the cities and their peripheries, destabilizing areas already under pressure, from where have precisely started, in March 2011, the first demonstrations against the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

The political scientist Bruno Tertrais says that the thesis of a global warming provocative of wars is badly demonstrated: according to him, today the states would not fight anymore for the access to the resources, which would have become in general abundant, but for their management ; even for water and war in Syria, for example, this war began when Syria had a surplus of wheat, easily distributable to those who needed it: it would not be the scarcity of the resource that arouses the war, but the management of a resource makes it available.

Interstate conflicts

In August 2012, John Kerry, who has since become Secretary of State, gave a lengthy speech to the Senate on the risks of conflict related to climate change. In the face of conservative Republicans denying the scientific reality of global warming, John Kerry demonstrated that the decline in the flow of the Indus River could lead the Indian government to preserve its water resources through the construction of dams. Its neighbor, Pakistan would be deprived of important access to water; John Kerry believes that given the state of its traditional armed forces, Pakistan would not risk a conventional conflict to preserve its water resources, but would probably opt for the nuclear threat and, where appropriate, its execution . The prospect of climate change wars has also been raised by national agencies, particularly the CIA, and by the Pentagon, which in its 2010 report on defense identifies climate change as one of the key causes for the possible multiplication of conflicts.

Interactions with the 2008-2009 crisis

In 2009, the International Energy Agency (IEA) finds – because of the crisis – a decrease in energy consumption, but also a decrease in investment in energy savings (a fifth less in 2009) The IEA fears a new rise induced by a possible recovery of the economy. According to this agency, it would be necessary to invest $ 10.5 trillion by 2030 to “decarbonise” the economy in order to limit the impact on the climate (this is the 450 ppm CO2 scenario that should not be exceeded so that global warming does not exceed 2 °C in 2100). With the continuation of the trend scenario (+ 1.5% per year of energy consumption from 2007 to 2030, ie + 40% in total), this is an average increase of 6 °C which could be observed at the end of the twenty-first century.

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