Pakistan Floods, Climate Change, and Global Security

Devastated Pakistanis dealing with extreme floodingThe ongoing devastation in Pakistan from recent flooding has now swamped one-fifth of the nation. Twenty million people, more than ten percent of the country’s population, are left homeless and in danger of contracting diseases such as cholera and other waterborne ailments. As of last Friday, at least 1500 have died from the flooding and millions are in danger of starving if relief doesn’t come soon. And as we in America twitter away our attention on the political posturing of the so-called “thought” leaders on imaginary threats – Sarah Palin’s mindless tweets notwithstanding – the threat from such extreme climate-related events on global security looms large in one of the most dangerous corners of the world.

This is a weather, climate-related disaster that is affecting over 20 million people in a country that has nuclear arms, an ongoing extremist insurrection and is a key ally in our efforts in that part of the world, especially in defeating the Taliban,” said retired Vice Adm. Dennis McGinn, who has served on the Military Advisory Board for the Center for Naval Analysis (CNA) in preparation of the Center’s landmark reports on climate change and national security. “This is a major, major issue from a national security standpoint … and this is a window into the future if we don’t do something about climate change and energy policies,” says McGinn.

It is difficult and generally ill-advised to tie a specific weather event – no matter how extreme or unusual – to greenhouse gas emissions and anthropogenic global warming, though scientists from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said last week there is no doubt that warmer ocean temperatures in the Atlantic is a contributing factor to the disaster that began last month. This on the heels of the latest State of the Climate report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) indicating a steady rise in ocean temperatures around the world.

It is, then, likely a pointless and counter-productive exercise to assign the flooding in Pakistan directly to greenhouse gas emissions, engaging more as a hot-button item for the disinformation/delusion campaign to rally the troops (and useful idiots) than to address the reality at hand.

In the CNA report, 11 retired retired three and four-star generals, including McGinn,  assessed climate change as a “threat multiplier” that will bring instability to some of the most volatile  regions across the globe. In their analysis, the generals warned:

Coastal agriculture, infrastructure, and onshore oil exploration are at risk. Possible increases in the frequency and intensity of storm surges could be disproportionately large in heavily developed coastal areas and also in low-income rural areas, particularly such low-lying cities such as Mumbai [India], Dhaka [Bangladesh] and Karachi [Pakistan]”

Taken in their totality, the extreme weather events across the globe are a window into a warmer world, and the consequences of both the natural environment and human society . “This is what a four-degree world is going to look like,” said Tom Burke, founding director of E3G, a sustainable development non-profit based in the UK.

We risk trivializing the reality of climate change, increased humanitarian crisis, and global security at the cost living in the four-degree world and having done nothing to stop it.

At what cost is not risking living in that world too great?

Additional sources and further reading:
Spiegel Online
Rennie’s Last Nerve
ClimateWire (subscription required)

Image credit: Telegraph UK

Thomas Schueneman
Thomas Schueneman
Tom is the founder and managing editor of and the PlanetWatch Group. His work appears in Triple Pundit, Slate, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, Earth911, and several other sustainability-focused publications. Tom is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

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