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    Nov 30, 2015

    Paris summit: Conflicts 'partly due' to climate change


    VIOLENCE has cast a long shadow over a climate summit opening in Paris today, two weeks after 130 people were killed in a coordinated extremist onslaught on the French capital.

    As more than 150 world leaders prepared to meet under heightened security, analysts warned of an increasingly war-torn future facing humanity if they fail to limit global warming.

    The Paris attacks on Nov 13 were claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group that has a brutal war in Syria - a conflict rooted in part, experts say, on a historic drought from 2006 to 2010.

    It drove some 1.5 million farmers and herders off their land and into cities and towns like Homs, Palmyra and Damascus.

    "It's not a coincidence that, immediately prior to the civil war in Syria, the country experienced the worst drought on record," United States Secretary of State John Kerry said in Milan last month.

    According to Francesco Femia of The Centre for Climate and Security in Washington DC, research has shown the Syrian drought "was made two to three times more likely because of climate change".

    Many a report has suggested that water scarcity, exacerbated by global warming, has fuelled deadly conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, thus contributing to the flood of refugees seeking a better life in Europe and elsewhere.

    Experts warn the situation is likely to worsen as climate conditions become more hostile to human survival - and people become more desperate.

    While climate change is not, on its own, a direct cause of conflict, competition for dwindling water and land resources can certainly fan flames in an already volatile situation, say analysts.

    Mr Femia told Agence France-Presse: "If, in a certain place, you introduce climate stress to the kinds of natural resource deficiencies that can contribute to state failure or conflict, you increase the likelihood of a conflict occurring."

    In July, an international team of scientists, policy analysts, and financial- and military-risk experts cautioned that food and water shortages would boost future conflicts over resources, mass migration and state failure.

    Even sophisticated governments may be unable to deal with the combination of pressures, said the report entitled Climate Change, A Risk Assessment.

    "The expansion of ungoverned territories would in turn increase the risks of terrorism", with large numbers of marginalised and disenfranchised people to recruit from, said the report compiled for policymakers.

    Negotiators from 195 nations will gather in Paris until Dec 11 to craft a pact to stave off worst-case-scenario climate change by limiting emissions of climate-altering greenhouse gases.

    The goal is to limit warming to 2 deg C above mid-19th century levels, when industrial-scale emissions began.

    Even a 2 deg C increase will mean a land-gobbling sea level rise, longer and more frequent droughts, and increasingly acute water shortages, scientists say. But the projected impacts worsen significantly beyond the two degree threshold.

    France said on Saturday almost all governments had outlined plans for fighting global warming beyond 2020 in a step towards resolving obstacles to an agreement at the summit.

    Earlier this month, Toby Lanzer, the United Nation's humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel, warned that Europe's migrant crisis will become worse if the Paris climate summit fails countries in the drought-stricken Lake Chad basin.

    Some 2.5 million people in the region have been displaced by a toxic mix of drought, poverty and conflict.

    An estimated 850,000 migrants have entered the European Union so far this year, mainly from the Middle East and North Africa.

    Yesterday, tens of thousands marched across Australia on a third day of worldwide rallies as pressure mounted on global leaders to strike the first truly universal climate pact at the Paris talks.

    Similar rallies were planned for Rio de Janeiro, New York and Mexico City, while 1,000 braved rain in Seoul.

    "There is no Planet B," said one placard in Sydney where 45,000 people converged, while another read: "Solidarity on a global scale."