Global warming has the potential to "completely destabilize" the planet, cautioned a top military leader, as nations increasingly respond by erecting "walls and fences" rather than seek out a "global solution" to address the coming tide of climate refugees.
The stark warning came from Major General Munir Muniruzzaman, chairman of the Global Military Advisory Council On Climate Change (GMACCC), a panel of current and former military leaders who study the security implications of climate change, whose latest publication was presented earlier this week at the Hague Roundtable on Climate and Security in the Netherlands.
Among the group's findings, Muniruzzaman explained to the U.K.'s Independent, are that the risks of climate change are becoming "all-pervasive," with the impacts "becoming so severe they hold tremendous conflict potential."
As evidence, Muniruzzaman pointed to events, such as India and Pakistan's ongoing row over water rights and the drought and crop failures that helped fuel the Syrian civil war, as well as estimates that as many as 30 million Bangladeshis could lose their homes by 2050 as a result of sea level rise.
Painting the climate crisis as a global problem that warrants a global solution, Muniruzzaman admonished western governments that have responded to the current refugee crisis by erecting barriers, which he derided as "narrow nationalistic instincts," to restrict populations in need of food, water, and shelter.
"I'm very strongly of the opinion that walls are never a solution," he continued. "You cannot build walls to stop people when they want to go to safety."
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"What has become more difficult now is we have boxed ourselves into the Westphalian system of states," he said. "That is in conflict with nature, with the movement of people...we need to find a common ground."
"People have moved before. Environmental changes have forced people to relocate themselves historically," Muniruzzaman continued.
"We need leaders with vision...we have to have a global solution to the problem, this is a civilizational problem," he added. "If we want to solve [these problems] with narrow nationalistic instincts, we will be adding more problems, not solving them."
The comments were made just weeks before global leaders are set to meet at the United Nations climate summit in Marrakech, Morocco, where Muniruzzaman indicated he wanted to see more "action" from signatories in regards to pledges made under the Paris climate agreement.
"I would like to warn everybody we are way behind schedule to trying to find a solution to the problems we can see. In most cases we have been shying away from the problems we can absolutely identify and see," he said. "For a long time, we have been talking about the issues, but on the ground we don't see much action. As a soldier, I have a more action-orientated approach."