The climate affects everything, including the geopolitical landscape. Humanity’s quest to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 is an epic energy and system transformation. As you know, the next chapter of human history is fossil-free. The challenge of replacing the fossil machinery that underpins our economy, welfare, and growth cannot be overestimated. At the same time, we know that paradigm shifts of this magnitude create enormous opportunities and value for those who take initiative and risk. The countries and companies that take the lead and develop as well as own the new infrastructure, energy, and products that will drive the sustainable economy will, by definition, become financial and geopolitical winners. President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act is a clear example of how the geopolitical race towards net-zero is underway.
In short, owning the next chapter in human history paves way to power and influence.
Climate impact should also be seen in military terms as a so-called “conflict multiplier” – political tensions and conflicts risk being exacerbated and complicated by climate change. A clear example is the protests and uprisings in the Middle East that broke out in 2011 and came to be called the “Arab Spring.” Popular discontent, corruption, and social divides had been simmering for a long time, but the fires in Russia in the summer of 2010, the Chinese crop failure caused by drought that same summer, and the Chinese state’s massive grain hoarding hit the global wheat price hard and were a triggering spark in a political powder keg. Similar developments will need to be taken into account militarily and geopolitically, as climate change and the collapse of the biosphere amplify tensions and the risk of armed conflict.
When two months of rain poured down on Canada in two days in the fall of 2021 and a historic flood devastated large areas, the Canadian military helped save animals and families. The list of military operations in climate-affected areas around the world is long. It’s worth exploring how the military’s role will develop in a new physical reality. Historically, the enemy has primarily been a foreign power, but now the threat is expanding to include the climate’s reaction to the emissions and lifestyles of the industrialized world. Is it reasonable to assume that our military can be prepared with humanitarian operations in the face of fires, water shortages, border surges, and floods? What does it cost? And what happens if the military does not take on the role?
Unfortunately, there are further dimensions to the impact of the transition on the geopolitical power game: carbon sinks and so-called “tipping points.” Let me explain. Carbon sinks are the places on earth that store large amounts of carbon dioxide and are crucial to the global ecosystem – for example, the Amazon rainforests are often called the “lungs of the earth.” Forgive my bluntness: is Brazil free to act as it wishes with the Brazilian rainforests from a traditional national state perspective? Or are they actually just the costodians of an asset that we all depend on? And is there a situation where countries are motivated to militarily intervene to save the rainforest and our planetary survival? Just saying.
4 Geopolitical perspectives – climate affects everything
- Who will be the geopolitical superpower in the fossil-free era?Climate fundamentally affects geopolitics – we will see constructive competition, an arms race to innovate and own the new chapter in human history.
- At the same time, the climate already affects our physical reality, redraws the map, and causes devastation with droughts, fires, floods, and mass migrations. Political tensions and conflicts are exacerbated and complicated by climate change, and this is likely to continue.
- The role of the military will be need to changed as their mission will be broadened to also include efforts to support society with humanitarian aid in a new physical reality.
- We should be prepared that we might witness military operations to protect carbon sinks.
Please read the full text and my thoughts in the co-authored “Climate and the new World Order”, by Fores