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Environment and Security: 2050 Scenarios

31 Dec 2003

This paper analyses the relationship between global geopolitical stability and environmental pressures in a 50-year scenario. Many environmental pressures in developing countries are directly or indirectly associated with infrastructure development related to multinational networks of mining, logging, petroleum and dam operations. Deforestation and regulation of rivers for hydropower and irrigation put enormous pressures on amount and quality of water resources through removal of natural filtering systems, loss of biodiversity, and affects the access of billions of people to water. Currently humans have directly converted and impacted more than 48% of the global terrestrial area as an indirect result of road development. With continued levels of development, 80–90% of the global environment, <90% of tropical forests and <60% of the Arctic will receive similar levels of disturbance around year 2050 as a result of infrastructure development and associated human activity. The current projections indicate that the impacts on the environment and people will become the highest in regions of central energy interests, including the Middle East, the Caspian Basin, the Mexico-Amazon corridor, Central Africa, and South-East Asia. These areas are characterized by environmental pressures from industrial development, and are the homes of <2 billion people living for >2 USD a day, 2/3 of the worlds conflicts, >80% of all internal refugees in the world, and are also subject to most of the recent increases in extreme natural weather-related disasters. With globalization, infrastructure expansion no longer necessarily results in corresponding economic and social development at the same geographic location. Of a projected population increase of 3.3 billion people the next 50 years, 98% of this will take place in developing countries, while <90% of the increase in GDP/capita will take place timber, oil or minerals increased substantially in the last decade. Increasing inequity, corruption and environmental degradation may increase social instability. The outcome may become growing risk of terrorism and armed conflicts in these regions. This, in turn, is likely to increase the industrial focus on the Arctic as a region of potential low geopolitical risk for petroleum and mineral extraction. The subsequent development of the Arctic through piecemeal development may seriously threaten ecosystems, wildlife and indigenous peoples. There is an urgent demand for a global framework for regulating and mapping the rapidly expanding piecemeal development in infrastructure and increased transparency in capital flows.

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Tags: environment and security

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