Resource scarcity - Energy

Resource scarcity - Energy

Increasing demand for diminishing traditional energy sources has the potential to lead to conflict or to work as a conflict multiplier.  Meeting growing energy needs while combating the effects of climate change will therefore be a key challenge in coming decades.

A number of commentators have attempted to address this issue. Drexhage et al., for example, state:
Energy security is a global issue, and energy resources (or lack thereof) are essential components of many countries' foreign policy. Rising global energy use leads to greater interdependence, and with it hard choices related to the security of energy supplies and climate change.

Source: J. Drexage et al., Climate change and foreign policy—an exploration of options for greater integration, International Institute for Sustainable Development, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Denmark, p. 15.

As examples, they cite the fact that 'many countries and regions, such as China, India, the United States and the European Union, increasingly have to rely on imported energy to satisfy their needs'. In turn, this may lead to interstate disputes over energy supplies in the future.  However, Dupont and Pearman believe that 'state collapse and destabilising internal conflicts is a more likely outcome than interstate war'.

Campbell and Weitz, in turn, argue:

Climate change could ... affect the international politics of energy production and consumption. 

... energy infrastructure could also become more vulnerable, both in the United States and globally.  Hydroelectric power generation may be substantially affected by reduced glacial runoff or by upstream nations diverting rivers in some parts of the world.

They believe that 'the added strategic significance of low-carbon fuels in a carbon-constrained world' could make Russia, 'a natural gas-rich country', more powerful, while the economic weight of the large oil-producing nations might decline.

They also cite Schwartz and Randall's theory that, assuming 'an extremely unlikely scenario in which the world experiences an abrupt and vast change in its climate over the next two decades', 'the resulting shortages in food, water, and energy supplies would 'de-stabilise the geo-political environment, leading to skirmishes, battles, and even war' between countries seeking to defend their existing resource stocks and those less fortunate states compelled to seize assets from others for their survival'. This could be accompanied by international terrorism waged by militant extremists. They believe, however, that 'transforming the world's energy economy', particularly that of the United States, could help in mitigating societal stresses resulting from energy scarcity.

Further reading:

A Dupont and G Pearman, Heating up the planet—climate change and security, Lowy Institute, Paper no. 12, 2006.

J Drexage et al., Climate change and foreign policy—an exploration of options for greater integration, International Institute for Sustainable Development, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Denmark.

K Campbell et al., The age of consequences—the foreign policy and national security implications of global climate change, Center for Strategic and International Studies, November 2007.

J Podesta and P Ogden, 'Security implications of climate change', The Washington Quarterly, Winter 2007–08, 31(1), p. 115–38.

22 October, 2010

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