United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is never afraid to make headlines when it comes to his stance on climate change. In 2007 he likened the war on climate change to actual war saying, “”The majority of the United Nations work still focuses on preventing and ending conflict. But the danger posed by war to all of humanity and to our planet is at least matched by the climate crisis and global warming.” More recently, in defense of his position after Climategate, he emphasized, “Climate change is happening much, much faster than we realized and we human beings are the primary cause.”
Now Mr. Ban is using natural resource depletion, specifically water, as a motive to reach a global accord to cut carbon dioxide emissions. At a speech to the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) he said of the Aral Sea, “where once there was water, sea, I saw endless sand and a graveyard of ships, and “As waters recede, tensions will rise. We need to work together, with full political engagement, to bring the various parties to the negotiating table, before tensions grow worse.”
Ban also addressed disarmament and non-proliferation issues in the speech. In some respects, Ban’s simply throwing things at the wall and hoping something sticks so he can claim a scalp.
But the remarks are also clearly intended to provide new justification for why the UN led climate negotiations should proceed despite a series of embarrassing scandals over the past few months that have led many to challenge the UN’s leadership role in negotiations on climate change.
Recent by the UN to agree on a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect developing countries have failed; in fact, most considered Copenhagen a downright embarrassment. Natural resource depletion should not be used as an excuse for the UN to try again.
While access to water is a legitimate issue, it is generally not an issue that is global in scope that requires UN intervention. For instance, tensions between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan over the Nile River are long standing. Various sources of the Nile extend further into central Africa, so it is a regional issue, but it is hardly global.
The Aral Sea Ban mentions is split between Khazakstan and Uzbekistan. Their countries’ leaders, (as well as some neighboring countries) obviously would share concerns in how that water is used. If they want to bring in the UN to help resolve any disputes (most likely the International Court of Justice) or to provide advice on water management, then that is their call. But there is no natural nexus for UN involvement.
Further, the idea that global warming is somehow responsible for the emptying of the Aral Sea is ridiculous. Yes, the Aral Sea was once the world’s fourth largest inland body of water, but its shrinkage isn’t a new phenomenon. The sea has been shrinking since the 1960s because the primary inflows to the sea, the Syr Darya and Amu Darya Rivers, are diverted for agricultural irrigation. That’s not to say there aren’t environmental consequences, but is the UN really the body best equipped to solve this problem let alone climate change?
By linking the Aral Sea to global warming, Ban is trying to use water scarcity to rebuild the credibility of the global warming effort. But his claims that global warming would aggravate water scarcity, like many he’s made before, are baseless and not supported by sound, incontrovertible evidence. The credibility of climate modeling has come under heavy attack, not just because of errors reported in data sets, but simply because of their accuracy in forecasting.
As Ban attempts to build momentum for this year’s climate summit in Cancun, Mexico, it’s important to remember the debacle that was Copenhagen. This is nothing more than a Ban trying to stay relevant.
Brett Shaefer co-authored this post.