Cross-strait tensions could be eased in the short term as China seeks to ink an agreement with US on how to handle issues related to climate change, Canadian journalist Gwynne Dyer said yesterday.
“The Chinese government’s priority is to get the climate change under control before the disasters strike home,” he said. “It needs an agreement with the US to make that happen. For political reasons, it is not possible for China to make a commitment itself until the Americans do … that requires good relations between China and the US. That in turn means that there must not be any crisis between Beijing and Taipei. I think it is true, and will continue to be true for several decades.”
Matters may change in the long run, however, if there is no agreement between Washington and Beijing, he said.
“Because then you do have serious warming, internal crisis of food, then of course there could be a temptation in Beijing to distract the attention of very unhappy citizens at home with a confrontation with Taiwan, but I think it’s a long way down the road, we’re not there now,” he said.
Dyer said he does not think China will use nuclear weapons to settle the political issue with Taiwan.
The London-based journalist wrote Climate Wars, which was published last year. The book examines the consequences of climate change and how it will potentially lead nations to war and conflict.
Dyer was invited by a local magazine to address the issue at a forum on climate change.
Accommodating natural disaster victims and shortages of food and water supply were two emerging problems brought by the climate change, he told a press conference yesterday, citing relations between Bangladesh and India as an example.
India is building a 4,000km-long fence along its border with Bangladesh to prevent an influx of illegal immigrants, he said, adding Bangladeshis would be forced to migrate if their country is gradually eroded by rising sea levels. A refugee problem could worsen relations between the two countries.
Food supply in Southern China may soon be tightened as waters flowing from the Tibetan plateau used to irrigate rice fields has been reduced, he said.
He also said Taiwan must try to be self-sufficient in food supply.
It is relatively easy now for the countries to cooperate in curbing greenhouse gas emissions, because in general the governments are secure, the food issue isn’t imminent, and the conflicts are only potential, he said.
“Once the governments become instable, the food issue becomes real, it would be difficult for countries to cut deals,” he said.
Dyer also urged Taiwan to voluntarily adopt the targets set by other developed nations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The EU aims to reduce the emissions by 20 percent in 2020, he said.
Steve Liu (劉必榮), a professor at Soochow University, said books like Climate Wars have helped elevate the issues involved in climate change to the level of national security issues.
“But I agree more with Thomas Friedman, that they must be linked to business opportunities that can be created through the development of green energy, which gives people the incentives to deal with it,” Liu said.
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