From Nepal to Nigeria, Indonesia to the Arctic Circle, a warmer world poses different problems.ByMark Sappenfieldfrom the December 6, 2007 edition
Nepal: Unforeseen flash point
When it came to climate change fueling conflict, "Nepal was not on people's watch list," says Marc Levy, a political scientist at Columbia University. But several experts now say the country's Maoist insurgency has received a substantial boost from global warming.
Indonesia: Unintended effects
The motive is good: To reduce its carbon footprint, the European Union wants 5.75 percent of its nations' vehicles to run on biofuel by 2010. The result in Indonesia, however, has been an unprecedented acceleration of deforestation to create plantations for palm oil - one type of biofuel - to serve Europe.
Lagos, Nigeria: Megacity on the brink
Sea-level rise presents a threat to coastal cities worldwide, but the threat is thought to be particularly acute for cities such as Lagos, Nigeria - already stressed to its limits by a population of 17 million and at the center of an unstable region.
United States: A new global 'National Guard'?
Hurricane Katrina raised concerns that the US National Guard could be overstretched by its dual roles as both war fighters and as first responders during disasters. Climate change could provide the same test for all of America's armed forces.
Arctic: Melting ice and the race for oil
In August, a Russian submarine planted a Russian flag on the seabed beneath the North Pole. Perhaps it would have been more appropriate for the Russians to have waved a green flag, because the act symbolically started the race to claim the oil beneath Arctic ice.
As Arctic ice floes melt, suboceanic oil fields never before accessible will become reachable. Countries including Russia, Canada, Norway, and the United States are seeking to extend their authority as far as possible in the seafloor. "We assumed that most of the sovereignty debates had been settled," says Geoffrey Dabelko, who studies climate change and security. "This changes the sovereignty question in a fundamental way."
East Africa: Desertification beyond Darfur
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon has famously and controversially linked the conflict in Darfur to global warming. Though experts are wary of connecting Darfur directly to climate change, they say the rapid desertification of East Africa has played a role - and that this trend is only accelerating.