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Military report warns climate change could spawn unprecedented violence

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The US Department of Defense announced the release of a 64-page 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) report in March, which warns that climate change has been and will continue to be a “threat multiplier” in matters of US national security and hotspots around the world.

The report is released every four years and represents an outline for military strategy in dealing with potential threats and this year’s report highlighted the “ever-worsening” disruptions of global climate change events, as did the QDR report in 2010.

It details many challenges caused by climate change in relation to global temperatures, increasing droughts, anomalous weather and rising sea levels, which has the power to “devastate homes, land and infrastructure.”

“The impacts of climate change may increase the frequency, scale, and complexity of future missions, including defense support to civil authorities, while at the same time undermining the capacity of our domestic installations to support training activities," stated the report.

"These effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions — conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence."

Wars over resource scarcity have to be anticipated and strategized, was the overall message in regards to recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which sees climate change as an imminent threat to humanity.

Eric Holthaus wrote for Slate this week, “Climate change worsens the divide between haves and have-nots, hitting the poor hardest. It can also drive up food prices and spawn megadisasters; creating refugees and taxing the resiliency of governments.”

Holthaus recently interviewed retired Army Brig. Gen. Chris King and got his view of national security and climate change.

“This is like getting embroiled in a war that lasts 100 years. That’s the scariest thing for us,” King told RTCC. “There is no exit strategy that is available for many of the problems. You can see in military history, when they don’t have fixed durations, that’s when you’re most likely to not win.”

Retired Navy Rear Adm. David Titley gave Holthaus an even more dire view of climate change in an interview earlier this year, when he referenced parallels between political decisions made that led up to World War I to similar political hubris happening now over climate change.

Titley, who transitioned from a, “a pretty hardcore skeptic about climate change” to labeling it “one of the pre-eminent challenges of our century,” answered a number of questions about his concerns.

Here is one of the most telling parts of the extensive Q&A:

Q. You’ve been a leader when it comes to talking about climate change as a national security issue. What’s your take on the connection between war and climate?

Climate change did not cause the Arab Spring, but could it have been a contributing factor? I think that seems pretty reasonable. This was a food-importing region, with poor governance. And then the chain of events conspires to have really a bad outcome. You get a spike in food prices, and all of a sudden, nobody’s in control of events.

I see climate change as one of the driving forces in the 21st century. With modern technology and globalization, we are much more connected than ever before. The world’s warehouses are now container ships. Remember the Icelandic volcano with the unpronounceable name? Now, that’s not a climate change issue, but some of the people hit worst were flower growers in Kenya. In 24 hours, their entire business model disappeared. You can’t eat flowers.

According to an RTCC report, analysis of 155 countries indicates the US government isn't the only one strategizing climate change associated threats.

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have come out in a firm stand against climate change, with Kerry drawing criticism for saying that climate change was a bigger threat to the world than terrorism.

However, it seems military experts believe the two are interconnected in ways yet-to-be revealed to a world unprepared for civil wars fought over water, food, land and other valuable resources.

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