"Environmental changes caused by global warming will not only affect human living conditions but may also generate larger societal effects, by threatening the infrastructures of society or by inducing social responses that aggravate the problem," he wrote. "The associated socio-economic and political stress can undermine the functioning of communities, the effectiveness of institutions, and the stability of societal structures. These degraded conditions could contribute to civil strife, and, worse, armed conflict."
In fact, Scheffran said, there's evidence that such dramas are already playing out on the world stage whether already affected by climate change or not.
"Large areas of Africa are suffering from scarcity of food and fresh water resources, making them more vulnerable to conflict. An example is Sudan's Darfur province where an ongoing conflict was aggravated since droughts forced Arab herders to move into areas of African farmers."
Other regions of the world including the Middle East, Central Asia and South America also are being affected, he said.
With so much at stake, Scheffran recommends multiple strategies for forestalling otherwise insurmountable consequences. Among the most critical, he said, is for governments to incorporate measures for addressing climate change within national policy. Beyond that, he advocates a cooperative, international approach to addressing concerns.
"Although climate change bears a significant conflict potential, it can also transform the international system toward more cooperation if it is seen as a common threat that requires joint action," he said.
One of the more hopeful, recent signs on that front, he said, was the 2007 Bali climate summit that brought together more than 10,000 representatives from throughout the world
|Contact: Melissa Mitchell|
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign