Climate change has become a major security issue that could lead to “a world going up in flames”, Achim Steiner, the head of UNEP has warned.

From rising sea levels in the Indian Ocean to the increasing spread of desert in Africa’s Sahel region, climate change will cause new wars across the world, the outlook is grim.

“People are being pushed into other people’s terrain by the changing climate and it is leading to conflict,” he said. “Societies are not prepared for the scale and the speed with which they will have to decide what they will do with people.”

A report to be published by UNEP tomorrow will make a direct link between climate change and the Darfur conflict. “It will be one of the most significant documents in terms of linking environment change and conflict,” Mr Steiner said. “It will say that climate change is now a key dimension that must be considered in conflict issues.”

“What we see in Darfur is an environmental change phenomenon unfolding that puts pressure on local communities,” Mr Steiner said. “Combine that with potential tensions and you very quickly get a potent mix within which increased pressure can result in conflict. The situation that emerged in Darfur will emerge in other parts of the world.” He warned of a “world going up in flames” if countries did not “wake up”, adding: “It is a major security issue that affects the whole geopolitical dynamics that we have today.”

How many times do officials have to say “wake up” before politicians finally take the action that is needed?