Climate change is the greatest challenge of our time. As it is a global issue, relating to many other topics and leading to severe consequences, we need to realize, that it is not about political interests or national security anymore. It is about planetary security and the future of humankind. Only by joining forces, collaboration on an international scale as well as determined action, we can assure that our future will be sustainable. We’re in the Endgame now.
A recent study in Nature found out that there is nothing comparable in the modern era regarding global warming, specifying that climate changes on a scale as it has never been changing before within the last 2,000 years. According to the study, temperatures are rising in every corner of the planet, all in the same direction: Up.
Researchers speak of a so called coherence, meaning that the change of climate is happening everywhere and at the same time. It is suspected that the planet “is as hot now as it’s ever been in at least the past 125,000 years”. About 98 percent of the surface of Earth went through the warmest period of the last two millennia, according to data of climate-recording objects e.g. formations of caves, tree rings, etc. all over the world. This is unprecedented in the common epoch.
Climate change & conflict
According to research from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) there is evidence in a context-specific view that the dynamic and the causes of violent conflict are possibly an effect of climate change, especially regarding their research on South Asia and South East Asia. So, climate change can have an effect on the conflict in the region when a.o. the basis for the existence of people is subject to decay, when the upper class takes advantage of resources or social weaknesses or when people get displaced and thus migration levels are elevated, according to the research study.
Further research is required, as violent conflicts are specific to a certain context, have multi-level reasons and process over time. It is necessary to “address knowledge gaps, but also to enable a more refined understanding of the applicability and adequacy of different response mechanisms in diverse contexts”. Also, a lot of disasters related to climate change are subject to seasonal changes and therefore have different effects and dynamics during a year. The transfrontier characteristics of climate change open many and new challenges but also heighten the relevance for institutions and organizations.
(Nordqvist and Krampe, 2018)
Next to regional conflict, there is also the possibility of people clashing for access to water resources. These water wars could become increasingly relevant due to climate change and the growth of populations. Research from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) suggests that the aforementioned aspects will lead to competition for resources that are more and more scarce. These hydro-political issues enable instability in several regions as well as social unrest.
Regions having difficulties to access freshwater or having transnational boundaries regarding water existence face possible tensions when it comes to a scarcity of hydro resources due to environmental effects. Research says that the probability of the so-called water wars lie at about 75 to 95 percent within the next 50 to 100 years.
Another research study from the World Resource Institute (WRI) has investigated the water resources of 189 countries by evaluating data from the years 1960 to 2014. A quarter of the world’s population lives in regions threatened by water shortage, the researchers report. Particularly, states in the Middle East and North Africa – where it is very dry anyway – are affected. The situation is worst in Qatar, Israel, and Lebanon, according to the evaluation.
Attention to the relation of climate change and security is increasing, as institutions like the EU or the UN are recognizing the change of the climate as a threat multiplier. Next to that, the UN Security Council considers climate change a “root cause of conflict in specific regions and countries”.
There are several aspects that make climate change relevant for global issues and therefore, planetary security. Weather events, which are becoming more and more extreme, increase in magnitude and prevalence. The rise of sea levels will affect populations living in lower areas on the planet, confronting these people with the serious threat of flooding. If the global mean sea level will rise up 123 cm as predicted in the year 2100, nearly 5 percent of earth’s population will experience the aforementioned consequences. In addition, the global population, which is consistently growing, puts more and more pressure on the earth’s resources. This leads to changing availability of natural resources, and climate change aggravates this situation, degrading the resilience of ecosystems. Moreover, the geopolitical landscape is shifting, especially due to the changing landscape in the arctic areas. Tensions arise because of national interests regarding gas resources or minerals in this area, amplified through the effects of climate change.
Due to the aforementioned facts, it is necessary to assess risks for global security in the light of climate change. Governments, and especially their Ministries of Defense, need to consider this in their policies and strategies. For example, the New Zealand’s Ministry of Defense did a comprehensive assessment of the relation of security and climate change. It resulted in several recommendations for future policies, including “greening defense activities; researching the impact of climate change on military operations; begin planning for concurrent operational requirements; and work on building resilience in the Pacific”.
(Dortland et al., 2019)
Joseph Stiglitz, the former Chief economist of the World Bank and Nobel laureate is committed to sustainable climate policy and compared the effects of climate change with the ones of war. He describes the climate crisis as a Third World War because the lives and all civilization are at stake. He says that the Green New Deal is an existential necessity. He mentioned that two percent of GDP has been lost due to natural disasters and diseases based on environmental issues will possibly burden the health system with horrendous amounts. It is therefore worthwhile investing in measures that reduce CO2 emissions instead of paying even more for the consequences later on.
(Unknown author, 2019)
A ray of hope is the agreement of Katowice. Considered by experts as a legal coup, it was a great success for the delegates of all involved countries. The created standards are likely to spark momentum that a country can hardly escape from, if it wants to be respected in the world community. The negotiation of the rules took three years, but in the end, nearly 200 states agreed.
These are the most important rules of the climate agreement:
- From 2020 on, states should report every two years on what measures they are taking to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. States must disclose how their emissions develop. Also, their measuring methods must be recognized.
- From 2023 onwards, an assessment is made as to whether the efforts of the states can effectively limit global warming. This assessment takes place every 5 years.
- From 2025 on, developed countries and, if they wish, emerging economies should continue to increase their financial assistance for adaptation to climate change. The aid is intended to finance protection measures against weather extremes and alternative energy projects. The payments and their effects must be documented in a meticulous way.
So, how is pressure created so that states abide by the rules? Essentially, this is done through a principle which is called naming and shaming, which means: Responsible states are publicly named and denounced for violations. Economic sanctions also result from the new rules of the climate treaty. Countries, which do not behave in a compliant manner, may not participate in the international trade of CO2 certificates, as an example.
Several recommendations from experts include the contributions to climate security by the military, especially through policies coming from the competent Ministries of Defense. To gain a holistic understanding of climate change and its effects, it is recommended to update doctrines and mission statements. For example, NATO analysis frameworks shall be extended, incorporating the environmental factor. Also, basic military training shall include awareness sessions regarding climate change, so that the impact of the issue is present at all levels of military organizations.
In addition, expertise on the subject is required. The possibility of Reserve officers participating in missions and accompanying different phases of a mission ensures proper quality of e.g. environmental assessments. This will lead to a better understanding of the root causes of conflict-related to the change of climate. As an example, experts in biology or hydrology can perform assessments of the ecosystem, political scientists could analyze governance structures, etc. Another recommendation includes the promotion of cooperation between military organizations, especially regarding best practices. It is also necessary to collaborate on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions, to address issues of climate change. Foremost, institutions like the EU and their staff need to pay structural attention to these collaboration efforts.
(Dortland et al., 2019)
Personally, I am convinced that we can master the challenge which climate change puts us up to. Collaboration of governments, institutions, corporations, civil society, and other actors is required and a sustainable future is at hand. Let’s be bold. Together.
#Climate #Future #PlanetarySecurity #WeNeedHeroes
Stefan Raul is a Finance professional, working towards a safer, sustainable and righteous economic environment by combating financial crime. Next to that, he serves in the Army reserve, acting as a link between military and society, especially in matters regarding disaster response, humanitarian aid, and peacekeeping. As an Education advocate, he engages in manifold activities to promote and advance education, science and charitable engagement. Stefan is a Fellow of the Think Tank 30 Deutschland since 2016.
Bojanowski, A. (2018), SPIEGEL Online, “Weltgemeinschaft schafft Drehbuch für die Weltrettung“, Link
Dortland, M. et al. (2019), Planetary Security Initiative, „Climate Change and Degradation of Natural Resources: Implications for the Military”, Link
Merlot, J. (2019), SPIEGEL Online, „Einem Viertel der Weltbevölkerung droht Wasserknappheit“, Link
Meyer, R. (2019), Defense One, “No Climate Event in 2,000 Years Compares to What’s Happening Now”, Link
Nordqvist, P., Krampe, F. (2018), World Economic Forum’s Geostrategy platform, in collaboration with SIPRI, “We need to do more to understand how climate change and conflict are linked. Here’s why”, Link
Ratner, P. (2018), World Economic Forum, originally published by Big Think, “Where will the ‚water wars‘ of the future be fought?”, Link
Unknown author (2019), WELT Online, “Der Klimawandel ist unser Dritter Weltkrieg“, Link
(Source of the picture: Creative Commons, CC0 license)