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U.S. intel: Worsening global warming may ignite political instability

Without curbs on greenhouse gas emissions, the volume of warming pollution worldwide could hit 42.3 billion metric tons per year by 2030—a 51 percent increase over present levels, according to a report released this week by the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration. This gloomy, worst-case scenario also foresees oil prices of $186 per barrel and a world that consumes 50 percent more energy, mostly fossil fuels. Such a lack of action could also lead to global instability, according to a classified National Intelligence Assessment report (pdf) presented to Congress this week by the U.S.'s 16 intelligence agencies. The report concludes that climate change over the next two decades will contribute to political instability in Africa and Asia, due to changing rainfall patterns or an increase in extreme weather. The U.S. would remain relatively unaffected—other than some thawing in Alaska, water shortages in the Southwest and storm surges on the eastern and southern coasts. The U.S., however, may benefit from increased crop yields, although its military may be stretched dealing with global "humanitarian emergencies" (spawned by devastating natural disasters and regional conflicts).

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