Climate change: a matter of world security

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Climate change has officially become a security issue today, as a debate on its implication for global conflict gets underway at the UN Security Council.

The debate was called by Britain, which holds this month's presidency of the council and has issued a paper explaining why climate change has become a security issue. The document warns of 'major changes to the world's physical landmasses' which could lead to border disputes. Scarce resources, such as energy and water, could also catalyse conflict.

John Ashton, the senior British Foreign Office official at the debate, told the BBC that the security implications of climate change were bigger than they were even three years ago: 'Their effects can already be seen in Darfur and in water shortages in Central Asia,' he said.

He continued: 'The significance of the Security Council debate is the debate itself. The Council has not had one before. But if there is no action, there will be no winners. All will be losers.'

What action the debate will inspire remains to be seen, but an agenda on reducing emissions seems clear. Ashton stressed that without a policy for coal, a country could have no policy on climate - a clear message to both China and the US, who are planning increased reliance on the fuel.

This article first appeared in the Ecologist April 2007