First the Pope, now the US Military: climate change magnifies the looming food, water and energy crisis

The Military Advisory Board of the CNA Corporation last week issued a concise, direct and influential report about the growing security threats posed by climate change:  “The volatile mixture of population growth, instability due to the growing influence of nonstate actors, and the inevitable competition over scarce resources will be multiplied and exaggerated by climate change.”  Adaptation planning must consider their interrelationships.

Food, fresh water, and energy are inextricably linked, and the choices made over how these finite resources will be extracted, distributed, and used has large security implications.

The recent U.S. National Intelligence Council assessment found that already in 15 years there will be an increase in demand: 35 percent for food, 40 percent for freshwater, and 50 percent for energy.

Even without the effects of climate change, more food demand will mean greater energy and water inputs for agriculture; scarcer water supplies mean greater energy use for desalination; and greater energy demands could put more arable land under production for biofuels.

Temperature increases in the middle latitudes will increase demand for food, water and energy, most profoundly in areas already stressed for them.

Moreover, urban population growth contributes to socio-political vulnerabilities. Rapid growth in cities can impede the ability of governments to provide necessary social support services, leading to disenfranchisement and even extremist or revolutionary movements.