As usual, there’s some great foreign affairs commentary over at openDemocracy.net, one of my favorite websites. They’re running a great debate called “The Politics of Climate Change” (click on this link) with a very helpful backgrounder on the topic at this link that goes into key aspects such as the science of climate change, creative energy options and climate politics.

One of the many insightful threads that runs through this series is the idea that climate change is not just important in and of itself but also because of the impact that it can have on nations’ security, economies and well-being. In an article called “Kazakhstan: Glaciers and Geopolitics,” author Stephan Harrison points out that the retreat of the glaciers in Central Asia due to climate change could have significant impacts on the geopolitics of the region. You can find the article at this link.

Scientists and observers of the region have two main concerns about climate change in Kazakhstan. The first worry is that infrastructure and transport in the country’s capital, Almaty, the powerhouse capital of the strongest economy of the former Soviet republics, will be disrupted (and endangered) by the severe flooding and debris flows that the melting glaciers might cause. The second worry is that a threatened water supply will destabilize the fragile political balance in Central Asia, since rivers do not recognize national boundaries.

Here’s the money quote:

“The case of Kazakhstan reveals two things: how intimately related are climate, landscape, political and economic systems; and that assessing the risks from future climate change is about more than producing flood hazard maps or knowing where sea-level rises will affect coastlines… More widely, climate change has the potential to disrupt the context within which economic and political decision-making operate. Few non-scientists recognise the extreme rapidity with which climate can alter, and the non-linear and dynamic nature of the climate system. Politicians have consistently failed to listen to the warnings or take them seriously. This means that climate change is likely to have some very unpleasant surprises in store for us.”

The good news is that there’s still time to start taking the advice of scientists. And the time to start addressing climate instability is now.

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