Monday, April 11, 2016

A Guest Post: Geo-Politics and Global Warming

Someone else has written a guest post--if the first person was, we'll call them, E&Y Corner Office, The Omnivore is calling this one An Historian (Note: these people did not get to choose their own nicknames).

Anyway, here you go-- enjoy!

I am going to start by stating the obvious (and if it’s not obvious to you, feel free to move on – nothing for you to see here): climate change is happening, the temperatures are increasing around the world, human activity is leading to the acceleration of this phenomena and while the discussion of whether the human activity has caused this change or is merely speeding up the natural Earth cycle is theoretically very interesting, it’s largely beside the point when considering what it means to the human life on Earth in the upcoming decades. And I do mean decades, as in our children’s lifetime not in some distant future when no one we’ll know will live so we don’t really have to care. Couple of other obvious points: there is no stopping the rising temperatures and the rising oceans , we (as in we humans) may be able to slow this down a bit if we show heretofore unprecedented levels of foresight and international cooperation but it’s not a question of whether they will rise, it’s a question of when and how quickly.

What puzzles me is that, even among the people who do accept the obvious, the conversation is concentrated on cutting carbon emissions to decrease or slow the impact of global warming or on figuring out how to deal with raising water levels (as in really cool MOSE project in Venice lagoon or in some of the low laying island nations discussing buying land elsewhere), but not how to deal with the fact the rising temperatures in already hot areas of the Earth with lead to the large swaths of densely populated land becoming uninhabitable.

So let’s take a look at what countries will became uninhabitable somewhere within the next 30 -50-100 years. Probably north of Africa, definitely the Middle East – what do you think will happen, logically, to people there? Will they all quietly decide to die off? Do they have wealth to build lots and lots of air-conditioned buildings and bring in the food to feed their people? Saudi Arabia and Arab Emirates probably do at this point (isn’t that what they are doing in Dubai?) but their wealth is built on oil, and given all the concerted effort going on to cut fossil fuel consumption I think that’s not going to last all that long.

So where do you think they are going to go? South into Africa or north to Europe? Think really hard, where would you do? Yep, right, probably north to Europe (or at least the majority will). How many refugees is that? And by the way, what’s the major religion there (not to mention the skin color)? How welcoming do you think Europe will be? Based on this year’s refugee crisis? Just to re-cap the news in case you’ve missed it: about 1 million refugees are seeking asylum in Europe mostly as a result of Syrian war (but also other conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere). Europe has not been able to cope with this inflow at all. The influx has led to the increase in popularity of extreme right parties all over Europe, Angela Merkel, who’s been incredibly popular in Germany till now, is losing support and is in danger of losing election due to her welcoming stance towards the refugees. There is a lot of talk about fences, bringing back the borders that have been abolished by European Union and overall sense of EU disintegration. The current solution is for all the refugees to be moved back to Turkey from the camps in Greece and elsewhere and have them wait for “due process” there.

Not a pretty picture whichever way you look at it – no agreement, no plan, heightened Islamophobia, xenophobia, and protectionism, terrorist attacks in major cities that exacerbate all of the above, dystopian books on France becoming Muslim… And all of this with just 1 million of people running from violence and hunger and no future for their children.

How many people are there in Middle East and North Africa? Did you know that there is an acronym for that– MENA? I never knew but Wikipedia says there is, so there must be. That same Wikipedia article says that there are at least 381 million people in MENA. The vast majority is Muslim. The population of Western Europe is 387 million people (all of Europe is 742 million, in case you wanted to think about Russia as a destination for the Global Warming refugees – not a bad idea geographically but highly unlikely to work politically). How do you think Europe will cope with 300 million of refugees given how it couldn’t deal with 1 million? This year’s refugee crisis will seem like good old days.

And so would ISIS. Why? Let’s use the knowledge we have of the most recent three thousand years of human history and extrapolate. What happens when resources become scarce and the land can no longer support its population? Well, usually people start behaving badly – marginal groups get scapegoated and eventually driven from the land or killed, then when that doesn’t help, wider political strife starts, and then a full-fledged war gets going with a full-fledged terror and occupation of nearby countries. Considering that it’s the global warming that’s driving this bad behavior, occupation of nearby countries wouldn’t help very much either so the trickle refugees will become a creek, grow into a river and then build up to a tsunami.

And that tsunami will at best reconfigure Europe and at worst destroy it. France becoming Muslim in a peaceful transition is a happy path scenario here, but it’s highly unlikely. The path similar to Byzantine Empire becoming Ottoman is slightly more likely and would actually be a good outcome – after all we still have Hagia Sophia. Why do I think it’s a good outcome? Because we have different weapons now and the weapons we have now can destroy our world many times over. And in a world unhinged by mass starvation and loss I can see a how someone or some group can decide that suicide bombing should be done on a much bigger scale.

P.S. All of the above applies to Americas as well, by the way. On the face of it, there should be less drama here– after all there are no huge religious differences, and there is a quite a bit of sparsely populated land up north that luckily enough doesn’t not belong to Russia. But… listening to this year’s political campaign does not fill me with hope – all this talk of walls, and “others” and the sheer popularity of it. And all of this without 1 million refugees knocking on our doors.

P.P.S. One more “by the way” – I wonder, between Israel and Palestine, which one of them will the first to realize that they are fighting for the last inch of soon to be uninhabitable land?

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