Security risks to the US from climate change?

"Heads of State Meet in Copenhagen to Address Climate Change: Aired December 17, 2009 - 15:00:00 ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, after chaos at the conference hall at Copenhagen, will world leaders reach an 11th hour climate deal? And how long before global warming turns into a major security threat?

Good evening, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour, and welcome to the program.

Presidents, prime ministers, and leading activists are arriving in Copenhagen for a last-ditch attempt to cut carbon dioxide emissions. As delegates lurched between pessimism, optimism, and back, and with time running out, they remain deadlocked over money and gases. Who should cut them and by how much? And who should pay what to help poorer countries?

The U.S. raised hopes by announcing that it will for the first time contribute to a $100 billion-a-year fund for developing nations. China then inched towards transparency on its emissions. And ever keen to capitalize, Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, colorfully declared, "The rich are destroying the planet. Perhaps they think they're going off to another one after they've destroyed this one." Venezuela, of course, is itself a rich, oil-producing nation.

And as the finger-pointing continued, the Danish hosts downplayed expectations of an agreement being reached. We're joined now from Copenhagen by Becky Anderson, host of CNN's "CONNECT THE WORLD."

Becky, thanks for being there. So tell us: Are we expecting a deal or not?

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Difficult to say at this point. What we do know is those world leaders who have arrived here -- and that is ahead of Obama, of course. He should be here by about 8 a.m. tomorrow morning local time. We do know that they're going to be locked behind closed doors from about 10 o'clock local time tonight. That is in about an hour or so from now. And they're going to try and nail an agreement, something that Barack Obama will be able to look at tomorrow and get involved with.

Look, they've been here for nearly two weeks, these negotiators, ahead of the world leaders arriving. They've been trying to nail agreement on those two specific issues that you mentioned at the top of this show, a big, deep cut in emissions by the world's biggest polluting countries and a large fund for developing countries to help mitigate the effects of climate change and, indeed, help them to adapt to what will be a more carbon- neutral future.

Now, I spoke to a senior government official here, Christiane, earlier on today and he said to me that these talks were heading for disaster. Enter Hillary Clinton. Quite remarkable, upped the ante by something like 200 percent, 300 percent, 400 percent, I would say, suggesting that the U.S. would commit to that $100 billion-a-year fund by 2020, not just the U.S., of course. She doesn't say how much the U.S. is prepared to put into that, but this is a fund of a number of countries, specifically European countries and the U.K.

So she says she'll commit to that. There is a caveat, though: The Chinese have to be more transparent about their own pollution, their own gas emissions, as we go forward. That was a real crux. They've been locking horns until this point.

What she made very clear, Christiane, was this. She said there will be no agreement and the U.S. will put up no money unless the Chinese commit to being more transparent.


ANDERSON: Gordon Brown today said that -- let me just finish here -- Gordon Brown said today that he thought that this would be an historic agreement. I would say this will be an agreement to agree to agree in the future -- Christiane?

AMANPOUR: And we will take that to our guests and then break that down. And, of course, you'll be back at the top of the hour with your program and much more on this.

So, as Becky said, there are lots of loose ends and a lot for the world leaders to tie up on the last day. And joining us now from Copenhagen, Dr. Kandeh Yumkella, director general of the U.N. Industrial Development Organization, which focuses on globalization, poverty and the environment. Also, Tim Flannery, who is also a leading climate change activist and a zoologist. He's also there, and we'll be talking to him.

Dr. Yumkella, welcome. Thank you for being there. Can you tell me, do you share the pessimism about a deal being finally -- finally broached on the last day?

KANDEH YUMKELLA, U.N. INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT ORGANIZATION: I'm very optimistic that there will be a deal. Compared to yesterday, what we have now since this afternoon is that the negotiators have hunkered down. They're actually in drafting committees.


They're negotiating hard. Ministers are taking charge of the negotiations. But in addition, all the key actors we need, the heads of states, are here. They're going to have dinner this evening, and they're going to start their meeting, already discussing tonight. So we remain very optimistic.

AMANPOUR: OK, well, I mean, basically you've all been there for two weeks, and now everything seems to rest on the last day when the world leaders are here. I want to play what Hillary Clinton, U.S. secretary of state, announced in Copenhagen today and get your reaction to it.


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I'd like to announce that in the context of a strong accord in which all major economies stand behind meaningful mitigation actions and provide full transparency as to their implementation, the United States is prepared to work with other countries toward a goal of jointly mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020 to address the climate change needs of developing countries.


AMANPOUR: So, Mr. Yumkella, is that what you were looking for? And what is your reaction to the effect, the significance of that statement?

YUMKELLA: This statement was very significant, because it comes right after Japan had also indicated a contribution to the Promstat (ph) funds we need for immediate action. So Hillary Clinton emphasizing that, in fact, there will be funds for long-term solutions I think sends a very positive signal to the developing countries. This has been a sticking point that the short-term funds are there, but not the long-term funds, so this was a major boost to the negotiations today.

AMANPOUR: OK. Now we're going to bring in Tim Flannery, who I mentioned, a leading activist and new climate change history -- a leading advocate of a new climate change treaty. Do you think that that was enough? Because some of the developing nations are still saying it's not enough. What -- what is the reality check there?

TIM FLANNERY, CHAIRMAN, COPENHAGEN CLIMATE COUNCIL: Well, Christiane, I think that was an enormously encouraging announcement by Hillary Clinton today, but still the key issue in this treaty is the emissions, is the gases, you know? And we have to be in a position where we can cut those gases by about 25 percent by 2020.

Now, the good news is, we're very close to that. If the U.S. can commit to another couple of percent in terms of cuts, if the Chinese can increase their efficiency gains by 5 percent, that'll probably be enough to bring the Europeans onboard for a 30 percent target, and then we'll be there.


FLANNERY: So with that in place, with the funding in place, I think we're in a very good position.

AMANPOUR: Well, this sounds really good. But, of course, there's a lot of ifs, you say. And this whole business of verifying -- obviously, China and India have said that they will cut emissions, but it'll be voluntarily based and not necessarily verifiable. How do you think these ifs of one or two degrees are going to be held to the table, Tim?

FLANNERY: Well, the Chinese position is a paradoxical one and a difficult one. You know, they've just come out of an era when Hong Kong was effectively a foreign colony. They're very sensitive to international interference in their internal policies. But, you know, the -- the reality is in the world today, we have a satellite surveillance system that can pinpoint emissions of all of the greenhouse gases, and they can be independently verified at a distance.

So I'm hopeful that some deal can be brokered whereby the Chinese Academy of Sciences, along with the U.S. Academy of Sciences, or some other group, can do that -- that verification in a way that doesn't impinge upon Chinese sovereignty.

But this is all a game. It's a political game at the moment.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Yumkella -- yes, go ahead. Your reaction?

YUMKELLA: If I can jump in on -- on the verification issue, I think it will be resolved. Remember that, under the Montreal Protocol, we already have verification systems to make sure that measures taken by governments indeed lead to a reduction of ozone depleting substances. So I believe that in the next 24 hours, the U.S. and China will be able to resolve the verification -- verification issue.

AMANPOUR: Can I ask you this, then, because you -- you're both sounding very optimistic, which is obviously very good news. I want to ask you this, though, on, again, keeping those promises and turning them into reality, for instance, let's just go back to 2005 when they had the -- the whole debt promises, the whole millennium goals. This is a different issue, but nonetheless, a lot of money, a lot of goals were promised, and there were benchmarks, but they're still something like $20 billion short and several years short on their target.

There is no financing procedure in place, no formula for the -- for the financing in place right now. Mr. Yumkella, how will these nations be kept to their -- to their promises?

YUMKELLA: Indeed, you've touched on an issue that creates a doubt in the minds of developing countries. There were too many broken promises. However, in this particular circumstance, we believe we have existing mechanisms that can be used to immediately deploy these monies in developing countries.


We have the global environment facility. We have the regional banks. We also have within the U.N. system what we call the multi-donor trust funds. So we are convinced that there are mechanisms in place, even in the short term, for these almost $25 billion that have been pledged now for the Promstat (ph) funding.

On the long-term financing, there's time to be able to negotiate a better mechanism, because the long-term financing is key to help these economies transform their production systems to cleaner technologies, to give them access to energy. One of the key challenges here is how we ensure that the 3 billion people who rely on firewood and fuel wood for energy can be given modern energy services.

That is going to be one of the key areas where you need more strategic planning and better mechanisms for financing for energy systems.


YUMKELLA: So energy access is going to be a major litmus test.

AMANPOUR: All right. Tim Flannery, you know, it's something like 17 years since the first climate change conference in Rio, 10 or more, 12 years since the Kyoto. What happens if this does not provide and produce a proper deal?

FLANNERY: I think we're in serious trouble. We know that global emissions have to peak at some time over this decade and then begin to decline to give us a better than even chance of avoiding dangerous climate change. When you look at the momentum that's built up here towards COP15 in Copenhagen, it's been enormous, and I don't think it's going to be repeated in Mexico or anywhere beyond that.

So this is a critical moment. It's a moment where you have to take that step, that very important step. It won't be the last step we take. There's all of the issues you mentioned about how we actually guarantee we stick to our promises. But we have to get over these barriers if we hope to progress, in my view.

AMANPOUR: Can I ask you both -- can I ask you both a leadership question? Because, obviously, the -- the developed world is being asked to -- to spend a lot, and there are many special interests which are pushing back on them. But many of the developed world leaders, whether it's the United States or Europe, have not really told their people how much this is going to cost, what it is going to take, sort of they skate over it. What needs to be done to convince people and, therefore, give political cover to the leaders to be able to do this? Mr. Yumkella first, and then to you, Tim.

YUMKELLA: Well, I think the -- the leaders in the more-developed countries need to convince their people that climate change is a risk multiplier. We have seen estimates that there can potentially be 200 million to 300 million climate refugees. If production systems in agriculture are also decimated by climate change, people will move to the cities. In the case of Africa, if they move to the cities, they will head north to Europe.

So it is in the vested interests of all countries, particularly Europe, the United States, to make sure that their people understand that, in fact, we're trying to prevent a major human crisis. There is a study that just came out that was presented today by our colleague from the Refugee Agency where they've shown that, by 2030, the risk for conflicts could be multiplied by 50 percent.

AMANPOUR: OK. We're going to go...

YUMKELLA: So just imagine with the -- the problems we have now, what happens with climate change.

AMANPOUR: All right. And, in fact, we're going to talk about that in our next segment. But right now, Tim Flannery, you're a zoologist. Deforestation, that's been one of the bright lights at Copenhagen so far, right?

FLANNERY: That's right. And, you know, if there wasn't so much at stake, what we look as if we're going to achieve to protect the world's forest would be a landmark achievement by any standard. So that is a wonderful achievement, even if everything else falls down, which I don't think it's going to do.

But we are slowing moving to resolve these problems, Christiane, and we're doing it because as we address the climate problem, we're unlocking the pathway to future prosperity. We can all see that. We can see there's 3 billion people out there who want access to clean new energy. We can see that the fossil fuel economy in China and other places is coming to an end. We have to make these investments in order to progress.

AMANPOUR: Thank you both very much for being here, Tim Flannery and Kandeh Yumkella, thank you for joining us from Copenhagen.

And as we wait for the last day, we will have our next segment on the issue of potential new conflict because of global warming, and you can also find out more about global energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions on our Web site,

We have an infographic comparing energy usage around the world. And as I -- and as I said next, more on the fears that global warming could increase the risk of war.



AMANPOUR: Welcome back. You're looking now at pictures of artist and climate change activist Maya Lin, who was talking to us on this program a few days ago. She was talking about her campaign to highlight the impact of climate change on our forests around the world, which has, as you just heard, led to an agreement in principle to save the world's forests and the risk that the entire species, many species, such as koala bears, could become extinct, and danger to things like jaguars and other such animals, as well.

And it's not just that, though. So, too, could be countries' national security.

And joining me now, retired U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn, who testified to the U.S. Congress on climate change and security in October.

Welcome to this program.

VICE ADM. DENNIS MCGINN, U.S. NAVY (RET.): Great to be with you, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: It's very interesting and fascinating to me that, for the first time, the United States now is looking at climate change as a major security risk. Give us an idea of some of the scenarios that you fear.

MCGINN: Well, in 2007, the CNA Military Advisory Board, consisting of about a dozen retired three- and four-star officers from all four of the U.S. military services, published a report called "Climate Change and the Threat to National Security." And the key conclusion to that was -- there are -- there are two, basically. One, that climate change would act as a threat multiplier for instability in critical regions of the world. And the other conclusion was that energy, climate change, and national security are all inextricably linked.

AMANPOUR: But what could happen? I mean, what does that mean in terms of -- of -- of responses? For instance, what would the military do? Does that mean you would intervene militarily? And what are you looking at as a risk?

MCGINN: A good way to think about it, Christiane, is this idea of a threat multiplier. We know that there are problems around the world. There are fault lines along religious, economic, ethnic lines that exist. There's strife in many cases, and it has been for many, many years.

The effects of climate change are that it's like putting a magnifying glass over those fault lines. It increases the intensity and the frequency of this strife, and that means much, much more threat to national and international stability and security.

AMANPOUR: Do you mean, for instance, things like competition over water, I don't know, refugees, if the Himalayas start melting, the glaciers?

MCGINN: I think all three of those are good examples. Let me give you one scenario that I've given a great deal of thought to. We know that, from the science studies, that the glacial retreat around the world, literally on every continent, is that -- is proceeding quite rapidly. The Himalayas constitute the water tower of the world for three critical nations and supply four great rivers. China, India, Pakistan and the four rivers that feed literally hundreds of millions of people could be faced with torrential floods during rainy seasons, and those rivers slowing to a trickle or no flow at all in the dry seasons, denying people the essentials of life that they've been relying on, that water, to grow irrigation for all human needs for literally centuries.

AMANPOUR: And why would that -- why would that affect the United States? How would that affect the United States?

MCGINN: Well, it could have a cascading effect.


If there's competition for critical water supplies in the Himalayas, South Asia, China, or wherever, it's going to magnify existing strife in those fault lines that I mentioned before. This could cause instability.

Pakistan is a -- is a classic case. We worry right now about the stability of Pakistan in many ways. They have an ongoing internal unrest, external threats from Afghanistan, the Taliban, for example, Al Qaida. And Pakistan is a nuclear-armed nation. We want to make sure that factors like climate change don't make that government become from a fragile government, in some cases, to a failed government, into which a vacuum of power would be filled by people with extreme ideas, potentially with nuclear weapons.

AMANPOUR: So in -- in some of these scenarios, I guess the Pentagon has been war-gaming some of these scenarios. I understand the CIA is also involved in its own way, in terms of providing declassification of certain images and certain scientific data. What do you war-game? Is it intervention? What is it?

MCGINN: I think it's a continuation or an extension of the -- the war-gaming, the planning processes that we have not just in the Pentagon, but in the combatant commands, Central Command, for example, Pacific Command, European and the new African Command, these are different scenarios that could be accelerated or could be intensified by the effects of climate change.

And you mentioned a key point, and that is the displacement of many, many large populations. Some of it could be internal to a country into political boundaries; others could be across those political boundaries or tribal areas, as we've -- as we've seen for many years in Darfur, increasing tension, increasing instability, and causing -- causing the United States and allies to have to respond.

AMANPOUR: OK, so I want to ask you how you, in your capacity, and how the Pentagon in its capacity, since it's said that it's a security threat, how do you tackle these things? And, first, I want to read a quote from your organization, of one of the members of your organization, General Anthony Zinni. We have that up -- we can see that on the graphic. He says, "We will pay for this one way or another. We will pay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today, and we'll have to take an economic hit of some kind, or we will pay the price later in military terms, and that will involve human lives."

Flesh out a little bit about what General Zinni was meaning there.

MCGINN: I think it falls under the category of an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. If we take action now, in the case of preventing where we can, mitigating where we can't prevent, and adapting to the effects of climate change, it will make us far more stable and far more secure as a globe and as a nation.

What General Zinni is getting at is the problem doesn't get better as each year goes by without action. The climate is changing. We are competing more and more for critical resources, be they oil or water or -- or food sources. And that doesn't get better as populations grow, as the understandable and justifiable demand for higher quality of life is there. This is going to get worse unless we take action now to make investments in adaptation, in mitigation that will help us to deal with these effects of climate change, and all of the potential scenarios that they imply in a much more effective way.

AMANPOUR: Thank you. Thank you for that insight. And we'll obviously keep monitoring this. Thanks very much, indeed, for joining us."

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