Congratulations to Al Gore for winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Congratulations to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for sharing in that prize. There could be no better recipients for the Peace Prize than the man who, more than anyone else has raised the awareness of global warming, and for the international body of scientists that, finally, lifted the dialogue about global warming out of the world of opinion and into the world of science.
Regular readers know that I have often written about global warming. Yes, I am an environmentalist, and yes I have long believed that global warming, and mans’ contribution to it was one of the most important issues we face today. As a futurist however I also see it as one of the greatest challenges in human history.
Why the Nobel Peace Prize? What does global warming have to do with peace? There are two reasons.
The first is the clear view that global warming for the next two decades will create tensions between nations and even, in the U.S. between states. Climate change is going to create droughts, famine, shortages of water and competition for natural resources. It is generally accepted that the Iraq war was, to some degree, about oil. Do you think we would have gone to war there if we did not need to import oil because we had created an energy policy over the past two decades that had led to much lower oil consumption?
The immediate looming threat to peace is the early stage saber rattling that is going on about the great reservoirs of oil that is now available under the rapidly melting polar ice cap. What about the growing shortage of safe drinking water in Asia and Africa? Who has the rights to water from rivers that flow through more than one country? It is well documented that the developed nations of the world put a disproportionate amount of green house emissions into the atmosphere but that the consequences of climate change will disproportionately affect the less developed countries. This will only increase unrest and division between the have and have not nations.
In the U.S. there is already tension between western states regarding water. The sprawling population centers in the southwest and west are on arid land where water has always been scarce. How will Arizona, Nevada, Utah and California work with each other when it is clear that they cannot all have the water they need? Right now in Georgia, the drought is so severe and the reservoirs are so depleted that some counties and cities are faced with the reality of running out of water in less than six months. Will county officials start keeping water for their own counties at the expense of others?
So, peace in the future is directly tied to how well we both slow down global warming in the next 20 years and how well we adjudicate the disputes over natural resources that are already occurring.
The second reason that global warming is a peace issue is that it is a major issue of survival that necessitates a global solution. There is no single country or even groups of countries that can solve the problem by themselves. We are now in the global stage of human evolution and we now have the first problem to solve as a species. The collaboration between countries, among populations and all marketplace businesses is essential for a solution. Humanity either solves the problem as one or we might well die separately. The human species is being served up an issue for all of us. The inherent opportunity is to create a unity among all of us in facing this issue that will bring us together in a common cause. Having a common cause that is global in scope is certainly a step toward world peace.
There are many paths toward peace. Addressing the issue of climate change is one of them.