Thursday, July 23, 2009

Possible Regional Instability

The recently released report by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee recommending new areas of US-China cooperation exemplifies the US's priority of engaging China on climate. However, the report also mentions that:

In South Asia, India’s rivers are not only vital to its agriculture, but central to its religious practice. Pakistan, for its part, is heavily dependent on irrigated farming to avoid famine. Both share the water that flows from the Himalayas and which could disappear completely by 2035. At a moment when the American Government is working to decrease tensions and preparing to invest billions to strengthen Pakistan’s capacity to deliver for its people, climate change is working in the opposite direction.

The nexus of China, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan is going to become the critical area where climate change, if unmitigated, will have extremely destabilizing effects. The US's recent announcement of an additional $165 million in aid to Pakistan represents a longer term commitment to a region where climate change will exacerbate tensions by increasing resource scarcity. Sharon Burke, from the Center for a New American Security, mentioned at yesterday's senate hearing that strategies for fighting extremism via economic development and strategies for adapting to climate change are complementary. States must provide their citizens with at least minimum levels of economic development to maintain their legitimacy to prevent the rise of violent extremism. Pakistan is a clear example where millions of refugees and the presence of the Taliban undermine the government's stability.

China and India are emerging economies with billions of people aspiring to develop and urbanize. Bangladesh is routinely mentioned as one of the states most vulnerable to climate change. The region encompassing China, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh contains around 2.8 billion people. That region has the most to gain and the most to lose depending on the course of international action on climate change.

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