- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 17, 2007

NEW YORK — Representatives of four dozen countries warned of lashing waves, creeping shorelines, failing crops and food shortages on nearly every continent as they opened the first U.N. Security Council debate on climate change yesterday.

Participants in the conference, convened by Britain, framed climate change as a destabilizing force that threatened international peace and security and amounted to “a slow genocide.”

As food and arable land become more scarce, diplomats warned, farmers and fishermen will be displaced and local wars over dwindling resources — such as conflicts in Sudan’s Darfur region — will become inevitable.

The Bush administration, which has taken a skeptical view of reports that human activities contribute to greenhouse gases and global warming, stressed the importance of energy independence to stability, and noted that good governance will help countries adapt to any climate change.

“The most effective way to bolster security and stability is to increase the capacity of states to govern effectively,” said Alejandro Wolff, the charge d’affairs at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. “States that govern effectively can better anticipate and manage change and the challenges that come with change.”

Mr. Wolff defended Bush administration commitments to explore biofuels, clean-energy technologies and a $500 million pledge to the Global Environmental Facility, which will help developing nations deal with climate change.

“The main point I wanted to get across is the seriousness with which the United States takes climate-change issues and leadership roles we are playing,” Mr. Wolff told reporters as he left the council chambers.

The British, who preside over the council during April, put climate change on the agenda after several studies and reports linked carbon emissions and global warming to human enterprise.

“Scientists and economists around the world have once again — more clearly and convincingly than ever before — drawn our attention to what is, without a doubt, one of the most imminent, serious and multifaceted risks and challenges confronting all of humanity,” said Japanese Ambassador Kenzo Oshima.

Several nations were reluctant to expand the Security Council mandate into environmental and humanitarian issues, noting that this is the traditional purview of the General Assembly.

“Climate change and environmental issues, all the issues related to the environment, is one package, and that comes under the competence of the General Assembly,” Sheikha Haya Bin Rashid Al-Khalifa, the current president of the assembly, said in an interview last week.

British Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett, who presided over the meeting yesterday, said the issue was too serious for the council to ignore.

“The implications of climate change for our security are more fundamental and more comprehensive than any single conflict,” Mrs. Beckett said.

The ambassador of Namibia, which is losing arable land to encroaching desert and suffering a resurgence of malaria, said, “This is not an academic exercise, but a matter of life and death for my country. Greenhouse gases are slowly destroying plants, sea life and a way of life.”

Several ambassadors from small island states noted that rising seas are killing the coral reefs they need to draw tourists and fish for food and cash.

“The destruction of coral reefs is tantamount to the destruction of Palau,” said Palau’s U.N. representative, Stuart Beck.

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