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Climate change sows seeds of escalating violence

TEAR Fund Press Release:

For Immediate Release: 02/11/06

Climate change sows seeds of escalating violent conflict

An increase in violent conflict and a refugee crisis will result from the impact of global warming on water supplies in poor countries unless urgent action is taken, says a new report from relief and development agency TEAR Fund.

TEAR Fund’s report is calling for Climate Change Minister David Parker, who is representing New Zealand at the UN Climate Change conference in Nairobi next week (Nov 6-17), to lobby all nations to move towards a global framework for cutting carbon emissions that goes beyond the existing Kyoto Protocol, and to commit billions more dollars to help poor countries adapt to climate change.

The report, Feeling the Heat, states climate change is sowing the seeds of violent conflict, as people battle for control of increasingly scarce resources. It cites examples of where this catalyst for conflict has already begun:

Environmental damage, exacerbated by climate change, has been a significant factor in the devastating civil war in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Botswana, Namibia and Angola have been at loggerheads over the Okavango basin. Tensions arose when Namibia proposed to pipe water from the river to its capital amid worsening droughts.

India has built an immense border fence to prevent illegal immigration from Bangladesh, where melting glaciers in the Himalayas are causing the Ganges to flood.

TEAR Fund’s report states: “As environmental migrants start to cross borders in search of water security, the crisis becomes political. So-called ‘water wars’ have already marred international relations in several regions: climate change and potential influxes of refugees will only increase tensions.”

‘Feeling the Heat’ predicts water is likely to be a source of conflict in Africa in the future because river channels and basins make up 40% of international borders.

Says Stephen Tollestrup, Executive Director of TEAR Fund: “Water stress is already a fertile breeding ground for conflict, and as climate change exacerbates this situation the potential for ‘water wars’ and a refugee crisis increases.”

According to the report, there are already an estimated 25 million ‘environmental refugees’ globally. Without action of climate change, this number could soon read 200 million.

In the report’s foreword, Sir John Houghton, former Chair of the Scientific Assessment Working Group of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), says that politicians’ strong words on climate change must now be matched by sufficient investment and strong action to cut global emissions, and help for the poorest nations adapt to climate change on their doorstep. A key to this will be helping poorer nations manage existing water supplies better.

Says Sir John: “The UN climate change conference in Nairobi is an opportunity for failings to be addressed. Time is running out on us and Governments need to act much more responsibly, effectively and quickly.”


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