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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Walker's World: From warming to warring

January 12, 2010 Jan. 11, 2010
By MARTIN WALKER, UPI Editor Emeritus

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- The Copenhagen summit showed that climate
change is as much about geopolitics and power as it is about the weather.
China's blunt refusal to accept any binding limits on its carbon emissions,
despite the agonized pleas of small island governments facing extinction,
demonstrated that this new aspect of the game of nations is going to be
played as hardball.

And yet, as Cleo Paskal argues in her pioneering new book "Global Warring,"
China is also powering ahead on every aspect of climate change. While
protecting its right to pollute (because it depends heavily on coal as its
main homegrown energy source), China is using state subsidies to seize the
lead in solar power manufacturing.

The Beijing government is pursuing a ruthless drive to secure exclusive
rights to oil and natural gas supplies in Africa, Central Asia and the
disputed waters around the Spratly Islands of the South China Sea. It
started the new fashion for buying exclusive rights to food from land deals
in Africa.

Above all, with dams in Tibet and on its share of the Mekong, China is
seeking to grab the lion's share of the water from the vast (but imperiled)
Himalayan catchment area, while building a massive canal system to send the
water to its arid north, where soil erosion has seen the Gobi desert advance
to within 100 miles of Beijing.

But perhaps Paskal's most striking story is the way that China is also
seeking to become a major player in the arctic. China has acquired an
icebreaker, a seat with observer status on the Arctic Council and its own
arctic research base at Svalbard. (China also has two research bases in the

Lorne Calvert, former premier of Canada's Saskatchewan province, says in
their visits to him Chinese officials and business leaders have "floated
some ideas for the actual purchase of (oil field) properties that they would
develop themselves." Eric Cline, interior minister for the province under
Calvert, noted that China was also seeking long-term arrangements for
uranium supplies, adding, "The meetings we're having are at a very high

Strikingly, China is also courting Canada's native peoples (who control vast
land rights across the northern territories), inviting over two dozen "First
Nationan" chiefs and tribal leaders to China, to be told they were
fellow-victims of white imperialism and also genetic brothers since the
first Canadian had walked across the Bering Strait from Asia.

"Canadian aboriginals own or control about a third of the Canadian land
mass," Chief Calvin Helin, leader of the delegation, explained after the
trip, whose purpose was "to tell China that Aboriginal Canada was open for
business. And to be greeted and hosted at the level we were is quite
unbelievable and quite historic."

Paskal's book is full of such vignettes, illustrating the way that climate
change and the intensifying competition for resources is starting to change
the nature of power politics. Paskal, a Canadian who is a fellow of London's
prestigious Chatham House think tank and a consultant for the U.S.
Department of Energy, has been a pioneering scholar of the new terrain where
climate change confronts national security, where geopolitics, geoeconomics
and global warming all collide. It is not just rivalry for oil and gas
supplies and water, but also for fishing rights and undersea mining and
mineral rights that may well be up for grabs when some of the lowest-lying
Pacific island countries disappear under the rising waves.

The Maldives government, Paskal reveals, has already started talks with
India about relocating its population there. But under the confused state of
current international law, it is not clear whether a country that loses its
land would also have to lose its mineral and other rights.

This matters a great deal to Florida, which could, under some scenarios of
rising sea levels, lose Miami and the Keys. Under current law, the United
States would then lose a lot more than that, since the "exploitation
frontier" between Cuba and the U.S. mainland would then shift to the halfway
point between Cuba and the remaining Florida coast. At a stroke, Cuba would
gain mineral and other rights over the seas that cover what used to be Key
West, and the United States could need Cuban approval to enter the Gulf of

"We need to start thinking about the legal and economic implications of
these developments now, before we have to start tackling them in the middle
of a crisis or a humanitarian emergency," Paskal told a seminar at
Washington's Woodrow Wilson center Friday. Among those attending were
National Intelligence Council officials and members of the White House
interagency task force on implications of climate change.

Paskal sees China and Russia taking these issues more seriously that the
United States and Europe, and her book is not just a wakeup call for Western
leaders but is also an arresting and original work on climate change,
probably the most important book on the environment to be published this

"As pressure is put on food, water supplies and national boundaries, famine
and war may become more frequent," Paskal concludes. "This instability may
make populations more tolerant of autocratic governments, especially
nationalistic capitalist ones where the political, economic and military
sectors combine to protect existing resources and aggressively try to secure
new ones. China and Russia already have a head start on this model."
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