[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]
Brendan DeMelle, Host:
There are dozens of excellent books on the subject of climate change, dominated heavily by texts examining the scientific underpinnings of our current knowledge about how climate systems work, and looking into what we might expect in the future. Many focus on environmental changes, threats to wildlife and biodiversity, and the public health implications of a hotter world. But Gwynne Dyer’s book “Climate Wars” takes a rather unique approach to the subject, delving into the geopolitical implications of a rapidly destabilizing climate. Drawing heavily on interviews with a wide range of experts, as well as his own history, military and foreign policy expertise, Dyer examines how certain countries, both rich and poor, might respond to climate change, and details the stresses that every nation will face, regardless of their military might or last-minute attempts to build resilience to climate disruption.
Exploring the present and future geopolitics of a warming planet, Dyer notes that climate-change scenarios are already playing a large role in the military planning process. Defense agencies around the world are issuing increasingly gloomy threat assessments and developing long-range strategies focused heavily on the likely impacts of climate change described by the global scientific community. To be blunt, Dyer is not optimistic about what the future holds – global food shortages, waves of climate refugees challenging national borders, wars over water and dwindling resources, and increasingly tense relations between nuclear-armed nations.
“We are not going to get through this without taking a lot of casualties, if we get through it at all,” he writes in the Introduction (xiii).
While readers might be inclined to dismiss such a dire prediction as the view of some deranged, liberal, hippy scaremonger, Dyer is anything but.
With a solid academic background in history, impressive military service and a lengthy career in professional journalism, Dyer has arrived at this conclusion carefully. Having served in three navies (American, British and Canadian) as a young man, Dyer went on to earn a Ph.D. in Military and Middle Eastern History from the University of London. He currently writes a column on international affairs that is published in over 175 papers in 45 countries. His television documentary series ‘War’ was nominated for an Academy Award, among other notable achievements and credentials.
Through extensive research and interviews with soldiers, politicians, climate scientists and other experts, Dyer has produced a thorough look at the geopolitical implications of a warmer, destabilized climate system. Dyer argues, convincingly in my opinion, that politics will play a decisive role in determining the fate of nations stressed by future climate shocks. No matter how well prepared – or vulnerable – any individual country may feel, climate change will alter the global political landscape in severe and lasting ways for every nation. Not surprisingly, the poor will face the worst consequences, but even the wealthiest will not escape untouched.
Climate Wars is not for the faint of heart. The pages of Dyer’s book are peppered with stark warnings and cold hard realities about climate disruption. He notes for example that, “if we haven’t reached zero greenhouse-gas emissions globally by 2050—and, preferably, 80 per cent cuts by 2030—then the second half of this century will not be a time you would choose to live in.”
While potential readers might feel tempted to skip “Climate Wars” in favor of less ominous reading, Dyer’s book is truly a must-read for anyone interested in what life might look like in just a few short decades unless bold and decisive action is taken to eliminate industrial carbon emissions and quickly reduce CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere.
Regardless if you agree with some of Dyer’s controversial suggestions for thwarting the worst impacts of climate change – notably geoengineering – Climate Wars presents a compelling and chilling look at the possible political and strategic consequences of run-away climate change. It is a thought-provoking book that will challenge the assumptions of even the most ardent climate denier.