This past Monday, Gwynne Dyer returned to the University of Calgary as part of U of C International's Speaker Series. The lecture focused on his new book, Climate Wars, which outlines the potential reactions of nations to global warming and its effects.
"The point of no return for climate change is when the average global temperature increase hits two degrees Celsius or 450 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Currently there is 390 ppm of carbon dioxide within the atmosphere," said Dyer during his presentation.
The lecture frequently noted the matter's urgency, but Dyer did much more than simply hurl shocking facts at the audience. He showcased, quite logically, the upcoming role of armed forces within the climate change context.
"If we increase the average global temperature by two degrees Celsius, China will lose 38 per cent of its food production and India will lose 25 per cent. Because of these massive, worldwide food shortfalls, we will see the era of climate refugees. Many borders will be closed, like the US-Mexican border, and that's where armed forces come into play."
Not only the massive climate refugee crisis, Dyer argues, but also the proliferation of failed states will see the use of soldiers. If a country cannot feed it's population, dissent is bound to occur and the areas of importance within that country will be secured by foreign powers. Dyer highlights interstate wars as an even more frightening prospect.
"Shared rivers will become sources of conflict between states. Since freshwater supplies are already drying up, rivers will become the lifeline for a country. For example, India and Pakistan share the Indus River. Pakistan, which is downstream, feeds 85 per cent of its population through this river. But India is allowed to remove a fixed volume of water under a treaty signed 50 years ago. War seems an inevitable outcome for these two nuclear states."
Dyer continually referred to a two degrees Celsius increase as the "point of no return." He realizes that time consuming politics will not bend to the situation's urgency. Geo-engineering, he proposes, might be the answer.
"What the world needs is more time to get the politics of global warming sorted out so emissions can truly start to be cut and we can begin to reverse the effects of climate change. Geo-engineering provides various methods for temporarily cooling the Earth's surface temperatures. But they are only temporary solutions. Emissions need to be cut and cut drastically."
With the Copenhagen Accord in 2009 the global community is making strides towards battling climate change. Dyer contends that in order for global agreements to be substantial and sustainable, developed countries need to take deep emissions cuts to compensate for the ongoing damage they have produced since the Industrial Revolution.
"The Industrial Revolution caused an increase of 110 ppm of carbon dioxide," Dyer explains. "It's time for the developed world to shoulder their portion of climate change responsibility. Not only will the developed world have to set back their emissions significantly, they will also have to subsidize the cost of implementing green power in developing nations. But most importantly, they must accept their part in both the problem and the solution to climate change."