Global Warring by Cleo Paskal

| 16th February 2010
Global Warring
An ambitious but at times over-simplistic look at how environmental, political and economic crises will redraw the world map

A range of books exists documenting the impacts of climate change. Some are partial and inadequate, some are wildly sensationalist, and some (though very few) are universal and life changing.

But in the realms of environmental analysis, rarely do authors ever look beyond the direct impacts of climate change to tackle some of the wider issues of geopolitics, economics and social unrest.

Step up Cleo Paskal. In Global Warring, she sets herself the daunting task of assessing the intersection between environmental change and major geopolitical vectors. It follows the ups and downs of the global environment, tracking changes in parallel with the waxing and waning of some of the world's major economic and political empires.

This works to effectively reiterate a very powerful, if painfully simple point: that environmental change will have important and specific geopolitical, economic and security consequences for us all.

Details, details....

But although this book does deal with the wider consequences of climate change, Global Warring remains deterministic and over-simplified at a number of levels.

Take the issue of sea-level rise and its impact on seafaring trade routes for example. Here Paskal leads readers down a garden path of anecdotes, claiming that political dominance lies in the control of the seas and the resultant economic power and potential.

But the author's reverence of the seas (which seems rooted in argument stolen from 19th century political theory) glosses over the complexities of 21st century globalised trading and leaves me feeling largely unsatisfied.


At times, Paskal's rhetoric is self-conscious, drenched in post-colonial guilt, and un-reflexive as a consequence. It is almost as if she wants to warn us (citizens of the hegemonic states) that if our leaders do not act now, then the rest of the world - notably China - will overtake us in the geopolitical hierarchy.

The author's reference to China's long-term plan for securing her position in the face of a changing climate is an important (and under-researched) point. But it seems tiresome to use this as a launch pad for a new doctrine of aggressive, globally dividing Western politics.

A foundation

All things considered, Global Warring tackles the issues of environmental change head on, and although the book remains simplistic, it takes an important step in laying a foundation stone for global climate change preparedness.

Cleo Paskal pre-empts the possible problems associated with persistent and varied environmental crises and alludes to the idea that although countries may not be able to avoid the longer-term impacts of climate change, they may be able to head off the worst of it.

Good thing too, because as far as Global Warring goes, things will only become more critical as the waters start to rise!

Global Warring by Cleo Paskal (£20, Palgrave Macmillan)


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