As with many recent military reports, the 2023 U.S. Intelligence Community Annual Threat Assessment agrees that climate change – global warming and its offshoots – “will increasingly exacerbate risks to U.S. national security interests as the physical impacts increase and geopolitical tensions mount about the global response to the challenge.”
A month later, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations announced that, “Humanity still has a chance, close to the last, to prevent the worst of climate change’s future harms,” according to the Associated Press.
“Humanity is on thin ice — and that ice is melting fast,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said. “Our world needs climate action on all fronts — everything, everywhere, all at once.”
Since the most consistent global response has been more hot air – especially in this country – the future looms decidedly bleak.
The Oxford School of Geography projects that more than 90% of the world’s population will “face increased risks from the compound impacts of extreme heat and drought, potentially widening social inequalities as well as undermining the natural world’s ability to reduce CO2 emissions in the atmosphere,” according to Phys.org.
This year’s Threat Assessment points out the obvious: “The increasing physical effects of climate change also are likely to intensify or cause domestic and cross-border geopolitical flashpoints.”
Many of the people trying to enter our southern border are fleeing droughts. But, the disruption is not limited to outsiders.
Daily Kos cited The Guardian’s Jake Bittle estimate “that three million Americans were displaced from natural disasters last year. That number will explode as the climate emergency intensifies over the years and decades.”
Bittle wrote: “This migration won’t be a linear movement from point A to point B, and neither will it be a slow march away from the coastlines and the hottest places. Rather, the most vulnerable parts of the United States will enter a chaotic churn of instability as some people leave, others move around within the same town or city, and still others arrive only to leave again.”
Chaotic migrations from internal and external sources bode ill for stability, with the Threat Assessment stating: “As temperatures rise and more extreme climate effects manifest, there is a growing risk of conflict over resources associated with water (and) arable land.”
With the strain on land use evident, the new year also brought to light the renewal of the centuries-old fight over Colorado River water. In a story detailing the battle between the states, the Associated Press reported:
”Scientists say the mega-drought gripping the southwestern U.S. is the worst in 1,200 years, putting a deep strain on the Colorado River as key reservoirs dip to historically low levels. If states don’t begin taking less out of the river, the major reservoirs threaten to fall so low they can’t produce hydropower or supply any water at all to farms that grow crops for the rest of the nation and cities like Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix.”
The Navajo Nation in the Four Corners region has also put in its claim to the precious resource.
Making matters worse, according to Common Dreams’ Kenny Stancil:
“Financial speculators are buying and selling rights to the Colorado River’s dwindling water resources in a bid to profit as historic drought conditions intensified by the fossil fuel-driven climate crisis lead to worsening scarcity.
“Wall Street investment firms ‘have identified the drought as an opportunity to make money,’ Andy Mueller, general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, told CBS News on Tuesday. ‘I view these drought profiteers as vultures. They’re looking to make a lot of money off this public resource.’”
Well, the investment operatives have wrecked housing markets and are targeting the health care field. What’s manipulating one more essential – water – to their putrid portfolios?
They join Big Ag and Big Oil, Stancil wrote earlier, in exploiting a limited resource for “water-intensive crops like tree nuts and alfalfa, factory farms, fracking, and fossil fuel extraction.”
The Intelligence Community’s Threat Assessment looks abroad and observes: “Climate-related disasters in low-income countries will deepen economic challenges, raise the risk of inter-communal conflict over scarce resources, and increase the need for humanitarian and financial assistance.”
A quick check in the mirror would reveal the same dangerous flashpoints right here at home.
Right here at home, where:
• “(T)he 21 GOP members appointed by (House) Speaker Kevin McCarthy to the Natural Resources Committee took a combined $3.8 million in campaign contributions from Big Oil,” according to Accountable.U.S. as reported by Common Dreams;
• The same committee is now being staffed by former fossil fuel lobbyists;
• DINO Sen. Joe Manchin urged increased federal spending to enhance the coal waste industry – that his family has a business interest in: “It’s just our way of life” – or death, the U.N.’s Secretary-General, “calls for an end to new fossil fuel exploration and for rich countries to quit coal, oil and gas by 2040, according to the AP.
• That same Sen. Coal-Mine Manchin, wrote in a Houston Chronicle op-ed piece that he would reject Laura Daniel-Davis’s nomination for assistant secretary for lands and minerals management at the Interior Department because of her stance against lowering fees for oil and gas drilling on federal lands;
• EarthRights International “identified 152 cases in which fossil fuel companies used judicial intimidation tactics to stop critics from organizing against oil, gas, and coal extraction, including 93 strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP) and 49 ‘abusive subpoenas’ directed at individuals and groups,” according to Common Dreams;
• On March 13, President Joe Biden, “U.S. President Joe Biden “greenlighted a massive oil drilling project on federal land in Alaska, eliciting outrage from climate advocates who say the administration’s accompanying restrictions on oil and gas leasing in the region cannot make up for the destruction set to be unleashed by the approved Willow project,” as reported by Common Dreams’ Kenny Stancil.
• A lot of hoopla arose when the EPA enacted standards to test for six PFA forever chemicals in drinking water. There are thousands of other PFAs that will remain untested.
• And, here in Duncan, USA, the recycling program has been discontinued and my trash can is getting full.
Well, I guess it is wiser politically to assess climate problems elsewhere and pretend that things are fine at home.
(Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party.)