War and carbon dioxide

Resource wars. On the occasion of the USA’s Veterans Day, Joe Romm reflects on forthcoming food and water shortages, and the prospect of resource wars. Good discussion, good links. That conflicts over food or other resources can lead to war is not new news, of course: it is in the history of every empire. Last summer in the New York Review of Books, Timothy Snyder reminded us that in the cases of Stalin in the 1930s and Hitler in the 1940s, most of the killing of civilians took place neither in the gulag of Siberia nor death camps in or near Germany, but in the wheat fields of eastern Poland, Ukraine and environs. Whatever the contributions of ideology and madness to those events, Russian and German desires to control that breadbasket had a big hand in the deaths of millions. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Britain kept food exports flowing from India, in the midst of famine; Mike Davis’s Late Victorian Holocausts gives a gripping account of this, and of the link between El Niño, drought, and famine. So when you think of climate change, don’t think of hot weather, hurricanes or dead polar bears: think of just how nasty human society can become when there is a conflict over food.

Carbon dioxide and methane. Recent attention to the warming role of methane has led some in the denial community to use this – as they use everything – to claim that carbon dioxide isn’t so important. At RealClimate.org, Gavin Schmidt of NASA details the relative contributions of these and other agents to the problem.

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