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    Environment looms as major security threat

    By Ed Stoddard

    SOUTH AFRICA: March 1, 2004

    JOHANNESBURG - U.S. President George W. Bush may feel al Qaeda is the mother of all threats but a growing number of analysts and policy makers say Mother Nature could unleash bigger and scarier security concerns.

    Ten years after Robert Kaplan wrote a seminal article arguing that the environment would emerge as the security threat of the 21st century, global warming and a host of other green ills are seen as major destabilising forces.

    Canadian Environment Minister David Anderson said this month that global warming posed a greater long-term threat to humanity than terrorism because it could force hundreds of millions from their homes and trigger an economic catastrophe.

    Natural disasters caused by extreme weather, including heat waves and tornadoes, claimed more victims in 2003 than the previous year and the trend is set to continue, the world's biggest reinsurance company Munich Re said last week.

    "The nature of changes now occurring simultaneously in the global environment, their magnitudes and rates are unprecedented in human history," said Jenny Clover, a researcher at the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies.

    "We see these different stresses, poverty, diseases, water scarcity...what one needs to understand is how these stresses increase vulnerability to environmental change."