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UK Think Tank: Slow Global Response To Climate Change Has Security Risk

LONDON (The Associated Press) - Apr 23, 2008 - By Kelvin Chan 

If uncontrolled, climate change could have security implications as serious as a world war, a British defense think tank said Wednesday.

The report by the Royal United Services Institute said the response of governments to climate security threats has been "slow and inadequate," and it urged nations to integrate climate change into their security policies to prepare for worst-case scenarios. "In the next decades, climate change will drive as significant a change in the strategic security environment as the end of the Cold War. If uncontrolled, climate change will have security implications of similar magnitude to the world wars, but which will last for centuries," the institute said in a summary of its report.

The study calls for a dramatic increase in spending to combat security threats posed by global warming. The institute said governments should spend at least as much on researching and developing green technology as they do on fighting terrorism.

"The basic point is that if we don't control climate change and we go over these tipping points, those costs continue occurring for centuries," said Nick Mabey the report's author, who was a senior adviser the British prime minister's strategy unit until 2005.

The institute said wealthy countries in Europe as well as the U.S. and Japan need to increase their spending on energy research tenfold to deal with the shock from a worst-case scenario of an extreme climate change crisis. Those spending levels would be comparable to what NASA spent on its Apollo space program, the report said. "The U.S. government has at least done something of that magnitude in the past," Mabey said, citing research that puts the cost of Apollo at nearly US$20 billion at 2002 prices.

The money would need to be spent on large scale carbon capture methods; advanced solar and biofuel technology; and ultra-efficient hybrid hypercars, electricity grids and aircraft fuels. Ignoring security threats posed by climate change is as dangerous as ignoring the risk posed by terrorism or nuclear weapons proliferation, said the institute. 

Its report predicted that climate change will either drive governments to collaborate or heighten tensions between them and within countries. If it isn't slowed, climate change will become a "primary driver of conflicts between states," the report said. Energy security will depend less on relations with oil-producing states and more on alliances with big energy consuming countries such as China, in order to deploy new energy technologies, the report said.

Updated: 2016/06/30

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