Western Hemisphere

Accumulated stresses owing to severe climate change may cause systemic economic and political collapse in Central and Latin America. The collapse of river systems in the western United States, for example, will also have a devastating effect on northern Mexico.5 In Mexico, climate change likely will mean mass migration from central lowlands to higher ground. Immigration from Guatemala and Honduras into southern Mexico (whether for employment in Mexico or passage to the United States) is already a major issue for the Mexican government and will intensify dramatically. The pass-through consequence for the United States is that border problems will expand beyond the possibility of control, except by drastic methods and perhaps not even then. Efforts to choke off illegal immigration will have increasingly divisive repercussions on the domestic social and political structure of the United States.

Severe climate change will likely be the deathblow for democratic government throughout Latin America, as impoverishment spreads. In these circumstances we should expect that populist, Chavez-like governments will proliferate. Some regions will fall entirely and overtly under the control of drug cartels. Some governments will exist only nominally, and large regions will be essentially lawless, much as has been the case in Colombia. The United States will lack adequate means for responding effectively and will likely fall back on a combination of policies that add up to quarantine.

Tensions will increase between the United States and Canada, including clashes over fishing rights on both coasts. Two-thirds of Canadians rely on the Great Lakes, a relatively small watershed, for water, yet Great Lakes water levels are projected to decline by up to one foot in this century, attributable to increased evaporation and population growth. If the United States decides to divert water from the Great Lakes to compensate for the effects of climate change, the ingredients for a fundamental clash of interests with Canada would be in place. The opening of a Northwest Passage to shipping will also lead to an entirely new set of problems relating to navigation and resource rights. It cannot be excluded that Canada's tensions with the United States will play into domestic issues affecting the stability of Canada itself—most notably the western provinces' new role as oil exporters.

The cumulative effect of all these and related factors will be to render the United States profoundly isolated in the Western Hemisphere: blamed as a prime mover of global disaster, hated for self-protective measures it takes.

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