Avoiding Military Conflict
by China Water Risk 9 June, 2014
Recently, a US military board reclassified climate change & water risk from a “threat multiplier” to a “catalyst for instability & conflict”. This month we review the impact of water risks on national security and other conflict pinch points such as food and energy security in an increasingly hot and water scarce world. Already Oxfam is seeing the impact on small farmers who support 1.5–2 billion people with food and fear we will end up “Hot & Hungry”. Oxfam’s Magrath & Morris-Iveson share with us how local disaster response plans deployed by Oxfam can help ease exposure to such risks. Energy security is also an issue. Beijing’s new low carbon development plan in a bid towards cleaner air means more clean energy. Hydropower seems an obvious choice but with over 46,000 dams, Chinese NGOs are worried that China’s rivers are already at maximum dam capacity. The Woodrow Wilson Center’s Dong & Turner say its time to rethink China’s dam rush. Moreover,China’s drive in hydropower has meant damming in seismic zones; Chinadialogue’s Yunnan Chen expands on the need for urgent review. Natural disasters such as floods & earthquakes strain military resources, ultimately weakening national baseline readiness. An effective Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) system, can go some way to mitigating this by preventing the construction of environmentally unsound projects. Unfortunately, fraudulent & substandard EIA reporting persist in China. Green Stone Environmental Action Network’s Li and Wang share their findings from the ground in Jiangsu province whilst we review the EIA process. Ensuring water security is not China’s issue alone. Recently, the Chinese Academy of Science reported that glaciers in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau have shrunk by 15% in the last three decades. This is China’s largest surface freshwater reserve; it provides water to 250 million people in China and up to 500 million in South Asia. China’s pursuit of clean energy security and climate change may accelerate geopolitical risk. In short, water matters to national security. Surely it’s time to plan for these black swan risks to avoid military conflict.
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