Thursday, March 10, 2011

Global Warming: Heat and Drought

The chief harm of global warming is often depicted as the melting of polar ice and rising sea levels, which will displace millions of people in island nations and coastal communities. But Jennifer Marlow and Jennifer Barcelos, co-directors of the Three Degrees Project, point out that there is another serious hazard—one that might have even greater effects on human health and well-being. Increasing temperatures will reduce food production in much of the world. And that becomes a security issue as people compete for limited resources.

See Jennifer Marlow & Jennifer Krencicki Barcelos, Global Warring and the Permanent Dry: How Heat Threatens Human Security in a Warmer World, 1 Seattle J. Envtl. L. 19 (2011), HTML, PDF.

map showing changes in agriculture capacity
(Fig. 2 from the article)

Marlow and Barcelos urge a new focus on "human security," rather than state-based "national security." Climate change is more than an environmental issue: it's a human rights issue.

(The green areas in the map above indicate that we in northern North America will probably see improved agricultural conditions because of higher temperatures. But the ups and downs of climate change don't strike an even balance. It might be a plus for Seattleites to be able to see tomatoes ripen, but that doesn't compensate for the minus of famine in South America, Africa, and South Asia, not to mention bush fires in Australia.)

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