For some time there has been speculation that large territorial jurisdictions such as the European Union, Russia and the United States could face internal, regional challenges due to climate change.
In his book, Climate Wars, Gwynne Dyer contemplated a potential division of the E.U. states along north-south lines due to overheating of the Mediterranean zone countries. Put simply, he foresaw a potential for a northern secession from southern and eastern Europe.
In today's Boston Globe there's a look at how climate change might leave the United States divided.
In this country we have been pampered by natural abundance. And when it wasn’t there, we re-engineered nature to put it there, tunneling through mountains and diverting rivers to grow cities in the desert and make fertile valleys from dry land. Much of the hydrology of the western United States has been engineered by man.
But as the changes in our environment become more apparent, our comfort in abundance looks less secure. The New York Times took a broad look this week at a problem we have been loath to confront: the coming disappearance of the once-mighty Colorado River. After a century of abnormal wet years and booming population growth in the West, drier conditions have set in and the river is hurting. The proud symbol of the West is becoming a pitiful trickle unable to supply all of 40 million people in seven states, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles as well as millions of acres of irrigated farming.
The plight of the Colorado suggests an unexpected threat to the United States from climate change: division within. The broad trends of our warming climate will be an intensification of the drought and heat in areas that are naturally dry and hot—our Southwest—and an increase in fierce precipitation in wet areas, such as the U.S. Northeast and Northwest.
..What strains in our national unity will this disparity cause? Will we have the resilience to confront these challenges, when part of our country needs to make preparations for more water while another part needs to gird for less? Can we find the common purpose for different strategies, especially in a poisoned political climate in which half of our congresspersons refuse even to admit the problem?
And that says nothing of a role of global leadership to confront this problem. Though in truth, America already has ceded that role.
Climate change will bring enormous challenges. We should not feel sanguine that we will escape in comfort. On a national level, our leadership has done little to prepare. That mistake may cost us dearly.
America is facing a retreat out of the south and a retreat from its coasts, particularly the most vulnerable east coast. The U.S. could well have a significant internally displaced population challenge. Where do they go, how do they relocate, who picks up the tab? Does America's once legendary cohesiveness still exist or will the country be Balkanized by the pressures? No one has any answers because, as yet, no one is having this essential conversation. It's one hell of a moment to be a nation as profoundly divided as America finds itself today.