Climate Change and World War 3

by William Yeatman on November 8, 2007

MSNBC reports that two think tanks, the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Center for a New American Security, released a study claiming that climate change could be one of the greatest security threats ever faced by the U.S. The report even compared the ramifications of a warmer world to a nuclear holocaust.


That’s strong stuff. It is also on the fringe of plausibility.


But what are the geopolitical ramifications of climate policies? Here’s a different scenario:


It’s 2012, and the West proceeds apace with emissions reductions. Unwilling to accept a comparative disadvantage to China, which refused binding emissions targets, the West imposes a carbon tariff on all Chinese goods (as French President Nicolas Sarkozy has recently suggested). As a result of the West’s protectionism, the Chinese economy—now the driver of global economic growth—sputters and stalls, and the world is plunged into a global recession.


It gets worse. Millions of Chinese can’t comprehend why the boom times came to a halt, so they take to the streets in protest. The Communists in charge feel their grip on power loosen, so they resort to nationalism to reassert control. A surprise attack is launched on Taiwan. The American President keeps her pledge to protect Free China, and has the 7th fleet engage the Chinese navy….missiles ensue….the world shuts up shop.


Sounds scary, right? Unlike the bogus report released yesterday, my scenario is at least grounded in history. Do you remember what happened the last time protectionism initiated a nasty global recession? It was the 1930’s, and it helped usher in World War Two.

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