Dire warnings and dismal predictions often seem to be the stock in trade of environmental activists. Hyperbole helps fundraising and hyperventilating about imminent threats get page views. Two of the leading subjects for pumped-up concern are global climate change and vanishing resources. But rarely are both topics so alarmingly conjoined as they have been by Michael Klare, author of The Race for What’s Left and Resource Wars.
Writing for TomDispatch.com, Klare argues that we are on the cusp of a new world order dominated by struggles over access to affordable resources. He says that humanity is faced with two converging and utterly unprecedented disasters: severe resource depletion and extreme climate change. His prognosis is not a happy one. The civil, political, and military institutions we have developed over centuries would be strained to deal with either threat alone. Together, they present a monumental global challenge.
It’s not just peak oil. The world is also heading for peak water. Klare cites the disastrous drought in Russia that decimated that country’s wheat crop in 2010 as just one in a litany of destabilizing events global warming will visit on us. The roiling discontent of the Arab spring flowed at least in part from the enormous spike in wheat prices caused by the murderous heat in the Russian steppes. Klare tells us such resource shocks will become increasingly common as the globe warms and resources diminish.
He is hardly alone in seeing the threat. The Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper (no Pollyanna, he) cites competition and scarcity involving natural resources as a national security threat on a par with global terrorism, cyberwar, and nuclear proliferation. “Extreme weather events (floods, droughts, heat waves) will increasingly disrupt food and energy markets, exacerbating state weakness, forcing human migrations, and triggering riots, civil disobedience, and vandalism.”
So while we may become inured to the environmental movement’s escalating warnings, those alarms are not groundless carping. A prudent and conservative individual or organization would be well advised to take them into account. The world may be warming but there are still icebergs in our path. It would be best not to collide with one.