Fight Climate Change Not War

David Gehl
A political journal for the democratic eco-socialist movement in Canada
Fall 2018 #2
Fight Climate Change Not War
by David Gehl
Regina, Saskatchewan
For an alliance of peace activists and environmentalists
Today the world faces two potential catastrophes: 1) nuclear winter as a result of global nuclear war and 2) global warming resulting from human impacts on the environment.  Nuclear winter affects would be immediate and long-lasting resulting in mass extinctions not only of the human race.  The effects of global warming on the other hand are a gradual increase of temperatures causing multiple climatic and ecological disasters having near term impacts on social cohesion, human migration and war.  Ultimately climate change could imperil human habitation of the earth.  Thus, there is a natural objective reason for an alliance of peace activists and environmentalists.
It is wise to learn from history.  To this end a recent article in New Scientist magazine describes research linking the downfall of the Mayan civilization in Mexico and Central America to prolonged drought.  To quote from the article:
“There is growing evidence from around the world that many periods of upheaval and war coincided with climate change.  The drought could have had a domino effect with food shortages leading to unrest, warfare and political disintegration, and the eventual downfall of the Maya’s ruling elite…  The changes [in rainfall] were considerable, but not overly dramatic. In other words, they are a good illustration that no dramatic changes in climate change are needed to cause enormous problems.  This truly is the lesson humanity should learn for our future.”
Policies to limit global warming and adapt to its challenges are a common subject in the main stream media, the focus of many environmental organizations and governments.  Global warming poses significant threats to humanity with predictions pointing to significant areas of the earth becoming uninhabitable.  This could lead to social collapse, massive migration and wars.  Perhaps the root, underlying causes of the current mass migration from North Africa and the Middle East to Europe should be considered from this angle rather than only being a result of competition for control of energy resources and/or the pursuit of national interests of outside powers.  As reported in, Think Progress identified climate change as an underlying root cause of the ongoing catastrophic war in Yemen:
“The impacts of climate change are making water even more scarce in Yemen, fanning the flames of violent conflict.  While the United Nations warns of climate-driven wars as a danger of the future, in Yemen they are already a deadly reality.”
Environmentalists must be brought into the struggle for peace
Expenditures on armaments and war dwarf spending on fighting climate change.  If humanity is to triumph in its efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change and eliminate the potential catastrophe of nuclear war it is imperative to radically reduce military expenditures and re-direct resources to fund human needs, including efforts to fight climate change.  Considering the current and historical cause and effect relationship between climate change and war there is a natural organic connection between the struggle for peace and the fight against climate change. Peace activists should reflect this in their activities. Environmentalists must be brought into the struggle for peace.
David Gehl is Vice-President of the Regina Peace Council and a long-time peace activist.  This article was first published in Saskatchewan Peace News Volume 25, Number 3 and is re-published here with his permission. Dave can be reached at