EU warns of climate-fueled conflicts, geoengineering risks

In this undated file photo, the European Union flags in front of EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

BRUSSELS – The European Union will call on countries to prepare for "spill over" effects from increased climate change-driven conflicts, according to a draft document, and warn of the need to assess new risks posed by large-scale technological interventions that alter the climate as a potential route to tackle global warming.

In the draft paper due to be published on Wednesday, the European Commission said action was needed from national governments and Brussels to address increasing risks posed by climate change.

Climate change worsens conflict risks in fragile areas, by unleashing destructive weather or harming crop yields – exacerbating food insecurity and destroying people's livelihoods

"We should prepare ourselves for increased spill-over effects on the European Union," reads the draft, seen by Reuters.

"These can arise though increased demand for aid, the disruption of supply chains or with people fleeing from uninhabitable areas or severe adverse conditions at home, with the potential of internal displacement and increased irregular migration," it added.

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Climate change worsens conflict risks in fragile areas, by unleashing destructive weather or harming crop yields – exacerbating food insecurity and destroying people's livelihoods. In West Africa's Sahel, for example, the United Nations has warned climate change risks unleashing decades of armed conflict and displacement.

The Commission said the EU would start analyzing a range of climate impacts related to security, such as migration, and assess the security implications of a global shift away from fossil fuels.

Non-profit group Clean Air Task Force said more governments need to take expand their climate change policies to be more inclusive of other risk factors.

"Decarbonization pathways that do not account for energy security, economic growth, development, and that fail to reflect other external risk factors are extremely fragile," said Lee Beck, a senior director at the group.

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The draft paper, which could change before it is published, also flagged new and "poorly understood" risks associated with geoengineering – potential large-scale technological interventions to shift the climate, with an aim of cooling the earth.

"Guided by the precautionary principle, the EU will support international efforts to assess comprehensively the risks and uncertainties of climate interventions," the paper reads. 

It added that the EU would also promote talks on a possible international framework to govern such technologies.

These methods – which could include, for example, spraying sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere to reflect more sunlight back into space – have not been attempted at scale, and remain deeply controversial, with scientists warning of ethical issues and potential unintended consequences.