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There’s a new gold rush on, but it’s not about gold. It’s about land. More specifically, it’s about buying and selling land, food, water, and ultimately, resilience. A number of countries, short on arable land and water, are investing in a sort of global insurance policy. Countries like China, Saudi Arabia and South Korea, with significant portions of their countries operating beyond their own water budgets, are busy making up the difference by buying up lands in water and soil-rich areas of Africa, South America and South Asia, growing crops on the acquired land and then shipping the crops (and the embedded or “virtual” water that went into growing them) back to their respective countries. The sellers, on the other hand, are giving up land, water and future resilience for, in some instances, pocket change (see Lester Brown). One might call this the “global resiliency market,” and as with any market, there are serious risks for all who participate.
The Nile Basin has been a hotbed of activity over the last year. In addition to the Arab Spring and South Sudan becoming a recognized state, the nations within the Nile Basin are renegotiating a longstanding water-sharing agreement over use of the Nile’s waters. All of this action creates an opportunity to develop a climate-resilient water-sharing agreement that could help reduce the probability of future water conflicts. (more…)
We know with a very high degree of certainty the likelihood of climate change and its expected impacts.
We know that global agriculture production faces increased floods and droughts, which will disrupt growing patterns that have been cultivated over thousands of years, severely diminishing our ability to feed a global population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050.
We know that climate change will impact resource availability, such as freshwater, compelling people to move to new locations, within and across national boundaries. We know that such dynamics can result in conflict and violence.
Despite the certainty of these risks, the global response has been feeble at best. In short, we were unprepared. Climate change at this rate and scale is unprecedented in human history. Our governance structures, from the familial to the international, which are responsible for responding to risk and maintaining our security, have evolved during a period of relative climate certainty. Cities, trade agreements, economies, national boundaries, political systems, security strategies, have all been built upon a stable climate.
In a world with an unstable climate, all of these structures will have to prepare. An unprecedented risk needs an unprecedented response.