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Today’s shot of eco-angst

Published 29th September 2009 - 1 comments - 1114 views -

Not a lot of reaction to yesterday's post, but that's not a reason to give up monitoring the more outrageous statements being emitted by those who want to give COP15 a heightened sense of urgency.

Today, our focus is on the Australian climate scientist Tim Flannery, who warned last week that if a deal isn't done in Denmark, something really bad might happen. Like what? Well, check this out: "My greatest fear is that once people stop negotiating, once diplomacy fails, that's potentially a prelude for war," Flannery told The Australian. War!

The triggers for conflict he believes include serious water shortages, mass migration of climate-affected people or carbon tariffs. Whereas the first two sound plausible, it is hard to imagine Australia and Europe arming the intercontinental missiles because of carbon tariffs. But that's the thing about apocalyptic visions, nothing is too Fletcherian.

I am with Flannery, however, in seeing resources as central to the 21st century's conflicts, but these may not be fought in the ways that we expect. Future resource hostilities will involve a variety of strategies and weapons, especially economic ones. Today, the Financial Times is reporting that a Chinese state-owned company is in talks with Nigeria to buy large stakes in its vast oil blocs. "The attempt could pitch the Chinese into competition with western oil groups, including Shell, Chevron, Total and ExxonMobil, which partly or wholly control and operate the 23 blocks under discussion," writes Tom Burgis.

How this "competition" will play out is going to be fascinating to watch. And maybe Flannery will be proved right in the end. After all, it was Otto von Bismarck, the Prussian patron saint of foreign policy realists, who once said: "The great questions of the day will be decided not by speeches, or by resolutions of majorities, but by blood and iron."

Category: Climate Politics, | Tags: australia, oil, war, resources, nigeria, conflict, competition,


Nanne Zwagerman on 29th September 2009:

It would be interesting to see whether the efforts of China would have similar effects as the combined policies of Shell and the Nigerian government in spawning entepreneurial guerrilla talent.

There is a lot of potential for conflict from climate change, specifically between India and Pakistan, and also in Africa. This could arise suddenly in the next 20 years if there is a breakdown in global cooperation - but will otherwise only have a weak connection to current efforts. The main point is that international cooperation shouldn’t break down.

The struggle for resources in a geopolitical sense is a bit besides the point as long as China doesn’t have a blue water navy. So the great questions of our day will be decided not by armed forces, but by dollar, euro, or yuan.

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