Climate change could heighten tensions and trigger conflicts worldwide, including the Indian subcontinent, by worsening water and food shortages and creating new flows of environmental refugees, the UN Environment Programme said on Monday.
The shrinking of glaciers jeopardizes vital water supplies, changes to the monsoon may disrupt agriculture, and rising seas threaten millions of people in coastal settlements in Bangladesh. Tides of refugees and hungry populations could further destabilise weak governments in Bangladesh and Pakistan, it said.
The warning was based on a report prepared by the German Advisory Council on Global Change, which urged nations assembled in Bali for a UN Climate conference to launch an "ambitious" plan to cut back emissions of carbon dioxide and other global-warming gases.
The UN Agency's chief, Achim Steiner, said negotiators should find ways to "climate-proof economies to buffer them against the climatic changes already under way."
The German council's report, authored by German and Swiss academics, also cited these potential conflict areas:
Africa's Sahel region: Climate change is expected to produce water scarcities, drought and crop failures, aggravating social crises in a region already burdened by failing states, such as Somalia, and civil wars, as in Sudan.
China: Heat waves, droughts and rises in sea levels will add to existing environmental stress and present major new problems for an already heavily challenged government.
Caribbean and Central America: More intense hurricanes could overwhelm government capacities in island states and impoverished Central American nations.