A few weeks ago, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change announced that greenhouse gas emissions must peak within three years to contain the global temperature rise to 1.5°C. This follows shock news that global warming recently raised the temperature in East Antarctica by 40C above normal levels.
t confirms the trend uncovered in last July’s review of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. After only six years, the mid-century climate change tipping point has advanced 15 to 20 years. This comes under several headings that have already been identified by the scientific community. The “tipping point” is the point at which climate change becomes irreversible.
The continued failure to address the global warning means we must now seriously consider allowing human-supported nature to take its course. In a few generations, planet Earth could resemble a scene from the 1995 film Water world – without Kevin Costner to save us. While delaying climate change may still be possible, the focus should also be on preparing humanity to adapt to climate change as it occurs. This should include contingency planning for moving affected nations to higher ground.
In August 2019, then-US President Donald Trump offered to buy Greenland from Denmark for “strategic” reasons. The international media hailed the proposal as a joke, and Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen angrily called it absurd. Greenland’s Foreign Minister Ane Lone Bagger was more nuanced. “Greenland is not for sale, it is open for business,” she said.
At the time, there was little comment that an ice-free Greenland could become the world’s hottest property and a possible place to resettle people from low-lying countries like Bangladesh when their lands sink beneath the waves. No wonder Americans want to buy Alaska-style Greenland.
As a defense analyst, I have always listed threats to national security and defense, including climate change, in terms of the immediacy rather than the magnitude of the event itself. Immediacy can be interpreted in different ways. Imagine being tied to a track and seeing the headlights of an approaching train. It would be perfectly understandable if that caught your immediate attention and not some distant asteroid that could hit Earth in the next 60 million years. Given the relatively short span of human life, immediacy might extend to a generation or two. Let’s say 25 to 50 years.
Beyond the immediacy, we have threats on the horizon – these are the events that are currently identifiable but do not pose a threat to the extinction of those currently living on the planet. Finally, we have threats over the horizon that may be man-made but are mostly the known unknowns of the cosmos. By advancing the “tipping point” timescale, climate change has moved from an event over the horizon to an event on the horizon.
To consider its impact on Ireland’s national security and defense we need to anticipate the likely sequence of changes, from more extreme weather events to rising sea levels and increasing desertification of the planet.
All three are linked to global warming. With winds reaching hundreds of miles per hour and strings of devastating tornadoes sweeping across the country, the power grid is inevitably affected. Towers carrying power cables that should be buried will be the first to go, followed by onshore and offshore wind farms. By then, hopefully, the state will have one, or ideally two, underground nuclear power plants.
In the event of extreme weather events, the defense forces are integrated into emergency care across the entire energy and communications infrastructure. In the event of widespread flooding, the first areas for permanent evacuation of the population could be along the banks of the River Shannon between Athlone and Banagher. However, once the effects of rising sea levels begin to disrupt world trade, it will trigger a series of resource wars unlike any we have seen before.
Internally, criminal activity will take advantage of overstretched security forces. As criminal gangs fight for control, martial law becomes ever more necessary. The constitution will still outlaw the death penalty, but that too may need to change.
As the planet passes the tipping point of irreversible change, rising sea levels will transform Ireland into an archipelago of 1,000 islands. In a world where famine and disease ravage the continents, where international trade is a trickle and communications gradually return to the Dark Ages, the priority will be, pure and simple, survival. International organizations will fall apart as each nation struggles to take care of its own.
At some point, Ireland’s greatest strength, our ability to feed many times our population, will become our greatest weakness. The desperate global need for food could push the current lowest threat (invasion) to No. 1 on defense analysts’ lists.
If we cannot defend ourselves, we face foreign military occupation and eventual annihilation.
With climate change, the meek will not inherit the earth.
Colonel Dorcha Lee (retired) is a Defense Analyst
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/defence-plan-crucial-as-looming-climate-crisis-is-set-to-herald-new-dark-age-41604082.html Defense plan vital as the looming climate crisis will herald a new dark age