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Climate change and war

We are stardust…billion year old carbon, caught in the devil’s bargain…. and we got to get ourselves back to the garden” – Joni Mitchell

Why peace activists must work with climate change protesters and refugee advocates to prevent future wars ? Welcome to this edition of CICD’s Alternative News on Melbourne’s Community Radio station 3CR.

My name’s Andrew and I have with me Bevan Ramsden, a NSW representative of IPAN, the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network. Today we will discuss why peace activists should work with climate change protesters and refugee advocates to prevent conflict and war.

Bevan: Friday 15th March,2019 should be a wakeup call to politicians and governments all around the world. On that day over one million school children from 90 countries left their books and classrooms to protest publicly for government action to arrest climate -change.

Andrew: The world-wide protests included 300,000 school children in Germany, 150,000 in one city, Montreal and in Australia, over 100,000. The Australian protesters called for a stop to the Adani coal mine, an end to coal-fired power stations and a 100% conversion to renewable energy by 2030.

Bevan: These school children have realised that climate change poses a serious threat to the quality of their future life. It can be expected that their protest numbers will continue to increase until effective action is taken by government’s around the world. Their actions should also be a wake-up call to us all; we all need to join in and make these protests so large that politicians are unable to move without being confronted by the demand for climate change action.

Andrew: It is inspiring to hear the views of these protesting students and why they decided to walk out of school and attend these protests. Here is what one student said. Her name is Isabella Harding and she is in year 11 and attends Brunswick Secondary School.

Bevan: “I’ve never been the kind of person that skips school but when I heard about the strike, I knew my support would be far more important than my VCE attendance. I mean, one day fighting for the future of every life on this planet is clearly more essential than one more day of study. So, my friends and I rallied together, made posters and took the train down to the Old Treasury Building in Melbourne. We arrived to find tens of thousands of students spilled across the Treasury Building’s steps and down Spring St. It was a sea of placards, school uniforms and excited faces.

I honestly felt on that day we had made history and the world was going to change in that second…. And then I woke up next morning and realised that none of that had changed, And I felt disappointed. We hadn’t changed history in that moment. There is going to be a lot more marches before that happened. And I would attend every one of them.”

Andrew: Isabella went on to say:

Bevan: “I wont pretend that I have all the answers and I shouldn’t have to because I am only sixteen. I should be walking through life only concerned about the dreaded ATAR score, minor heartbreaks and uncooperative parents. But I can’t do these things because I can’t be ignorant. The people who make the decisions today haven’t lived their whole lives impacted by climate change and wont be around to sort out the future. We have to keep marching, we have to be standing up to our politicians and we have to be fighting for our planet. Because if we wait until it is our turn to make decisions, it will be too late.”

Andrew: Too late indeed. Here is a recent quote from Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, chief climate advisor to the European Union:

Bevan: “We‘re simply talking about the very life support system of this planet. As fascism and the horror of murderous hate crimes are spreading around the world, governments are presiding over runaway climate change which is leading towards a mass extinction of species, costing the lives of billions and the demise of much of nature, while our children are protesting the betrayal of their future”.

Andrew: Even the Reserve Bank of Australia warned recently to “Change now or pay later”. The report said: ”The Reserve Bank has warned climate change is likely to cause economic shocks and threaten Australia’s financial stability unless businesses take immediate stock of the risks”. But Bevan, as a representative of IPAN, you are also concerned, I believe, with the propensity for climate change to stimulate conflict and war. Could you explain how you have come to this conclusion.

Bevan: It appears clear to me that climate change impacts on food production and so will cause geographical scarcities and changes to the habitable areas of the planet. Survival for many will mean moving to more habitable areas and areas where food supplies are more likely to be guaranteed. This means large economic refugee movements which could well lead to conflict and war as those occupying the more habitable areas of the planet oppose those seeking to move into those areas.

Andrew:  Are you alone with these conclusions or have others come to this conclusion of yours also ?

Bevan: I will quote you some sources and these are not rabid left wing sources either.

The Sydney Morning Herald, of Jan, 2009 had a heading to an article: “Climate change may lead to war” and went on to say:

“A warmer planet could find itself more often at war. The Earth’s fast-changing climate has a range of serious thinkers – from military brass to geographers to diplomats – predicting a spate of armed conflicts driven by the weather.” The article went on to say: “Last year the Centre for Naval Analyses gathered retired generals and admirals to gauge the potential for climate to cause conflict. The former commanders concluded that war would be more likely, that the US military needed to plan for the new threats, and that the United States had to reduce its carbon emissions.

“We will pay for this one way or another,” wrote retired Marine General, Anthony Zinni, the former chief of the US Central Command. “We will pay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today, and we’ll have to take an economic hit of some kind. Or, we will pay the price later in military terms. And that will involve human lives. There will be a human toll.”

The New York Times in January, 2009 said: “Climate Change seen as a threat to US security. Such climate-induced crises could topple governments, feed terrorist movements or destabilize entire regions, say the analysts, experts at the Pentagon and intelligence agencies who for the first time are taking a serious look at the national security implications of climate change.”

Andrew: Nick Deane of IPAN expanded on this theme recently in his article published in Pearls and Irritations.  Could you sum up what he said ?

Bevan: Firstly, Nick said that all military activity including war and preparation for war is highly damaging to the environment and contributes significantly to climate change. It is estimated that 10% of all carbon emissions can be attributed to military activity.

Secondly, he says that leaders across the globe are not blind to the effects of climate change  and correctly foresee and fear increased instability and people movement to find habitable and sustainable living environments. This instability and economic refugee movements are perceived as a threat and the leaders instinctively want to protect their nation against this perceived threat and arm the nation to resist by military force, if necessary. We see this implicitly in the increasing military expenditures around the world and in the United States with the building of a wall to keep out Mexican economic refugees from entering the USA.

In Australia the government has already created and armed a border protection force.

Nick warns that responding to the impact of climate change on people in this manner will create an even greater catastrophe for everyone by adding armed conflict to the scenario. He says, humankind may then well inflict much more suffering upon itself than nature.

Andrew: What message do you have for peace activists, Bevan ?

Bevan: Climate change will produce economic refugees and people movements with the propensity for conflict, even war. Peace activists and organisations, in working for the avoidance of future wars need to join forces with climate change protesters and their organisations including school children and refugee advocates to force governments to take action to halt climate change and to do so ASAP.

Andrew: Thank you Bevan for your contribution to this program. Alternative news welcomes listener’s comments to this and every program. Simply send you comments to

peacecentre@cicd.org.au; that is peacecentre@cicd.org.au

Good morning and thanks for listening.

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