Climate change and security – analysis and policy

Climate change and security – analysis and policy

See also:

Government sources

United Nations

Security Council

Security Council open debate – Energy, Security and Climate, 17 April 2007, Nautilus Institute

General Assembly

General Assembly, expressing deep concern, invites major United Nations organs to intensify efforts in addressing security implications of climate change, United Nations, Sixty-third General Assembly, Plenary, 85th Meeting (AM),  GA/10830 , Department of Public Information, News and Media Division, New York, 3 June 2009.

Deeply concerned about the possible security implications of climate change, the General Assembly today invited the major organs of the United Nations, including the Security Council, to intensify their efforts to address the challenge, as appropriate and within their respective mandates. Unanimously adopting a draft resolution on follow-up to the outcome of the Millennium Summit and titled “Climate change and its possible security implications” (document A/63/L.8/Rev.1), the Assembly also requested the Secretary-General to submit to its next session a comprehensive report on those implications, based on the views of Member States and regional and international organizations.

On 17 April 2007, the United Kingdom convened a day-long Security Council debate on the impact of climate change on security, which featured interventions by more than 50 speakers.  However, many delegates from developing countries questioned whether the Council was the proper forum to discuss the issue.  They included the representative of Pakistan, representing the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, who saw climate change as a development matter to be dealt with by the more widely representative General Assembly.

Introducing the draft in the Assembly today, on behalf of the Pacific Small Island Developing States, Nauru’s representative emphasized that rising oceans could, sooner than previously thought, leave little of that regional group’s already tiny homelands above water unless urgent action was taken.  Already, the impact of climate change included inundation of heavily populated coastal areas, loss of freshwater, failure of agriculture and other results of saltwater intrusion.

Nicaragua’s representative, speaking before the vote on behalf of the “like-minded group” — Bahrain, Bolivia, Ecuador, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Venezuela -– said the group would join the consensus on the compromise text.  In addressing the issue, however, it was vital that Member States, particularly industrialized nations, promote sustainable development, while adhering to the principle of common but differentiated responsibility, and fully implement Agenda 21 and other relevant development commitments.

Other representatives of developing countries, including those of Indonesia and Bahrain, the latter on behalf of the Arab States, said they had joined the consensus out of solidarity and the need for a united front in combating climate change.  Joined by the representatives of Argentina, Brazil and China, they stressed, however, that the resolution must not undermine the primary responsibility of the General Assembly, and in some areas the Economic and Social Council, both of which must address climate change from the viewpoint of sustainable development and the eradication of poverty.

Follow-up to the outcome of the Millennium Summit: Climate change and its possible security implications, Draft Resolution, A/63/L.8/Rev.1, General Assembly, Sixty-third session Distr.: Limited, 18 May 2009

Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Monaco, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Samoa, Seychelles, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Turkey, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Vanuatu:

The General Assembly,

Noting the open debate in the Security Council on “Energy, security and climate” held on 17 April 2007

Deeply concerned that the adverse impacts of climate change, including sealevel rise, could have possible security implications,

1. Invites the relevant organs of the United Nations, as appropriate and within their respective mandates, to intensify their efforts in considering and addressing climate change, including its possible security implications;

2. Requests the Secretary-General to submit a comprehensive report to the General Assembly at its sixty-fourth session on the possible security implications of climate change, based on the views of the Member States and relevant regional and international organizations.

European Union

Climate Change and International Security, Paper from the High Representative and the European Commission to the European Council, Council of the European Union, 3 March 2008.

The report considers how the full range of EU instruments, including Community and CFSP/ESDP action, can be used alongside mitigation and adaptation policies to address the security risks. It also considers the implications for the intensification of political dialogue with third countries. A post-2012 agreement has to be developed by the end of 2009 and all levers of EU foreign relations must work towards this end. The report concludes that it is in Europe’s self interest to address the security implications of climate change with a series of measures: at the level of the EU, in bilateral relations and at the multilateral level, in mutually supportive ways.

EU multilateral leadership to promote global climate security
Climate change is a key element of international relations and will be increasingly so in the coming  years, including its security dimension. If recognised, it can even become a positive driver for improving and reforming global governance. As it is a global problem, the EU is advocating a multilateral response. Building on the successful Bali conference in Dec 2007 the EU needs to continue and strengthen its leadership towards an ambitious post-2012 agreement in 2009, including both mitigation and adaptation action by all countries as a key contribution to addressing climate security.

Possible actions that could be developed include:

  • Focus attention on the security risks related to climate change in the multilateral arena; in particular within the UN Security Council, the G8 as well as the UN specialised bodies (among others by addressing a possible need to strengthen certain rules of international law, including the Law of the Sea).

  • Enhance international cooperation on the detection and monitoring of the security threats related to climate change, and on prevention, preparedness, mitigation and response capacities. Promote the development of regional security scenarios for different levels of climate change and their implications for international security.

  • Consider environmentally-triggered additional migratory stress in the further development of a comprehensive European migration policy, in liaison with all relevant international bodies.

Cooperation with third countries
Climate change calls for revisiting and reinforcing EU cooperation and political dialogue instruments, giving more attention to the impact of climate change on security. This could lead to greater prioritisation and enhanced support for climate change mitigation and adaptation, good governance, natural resource management, technology transfer, trans-boundary environmental cooperation (inter alia water and land), institutional strengthening and capacity building for crisis management.

Global Monitoring for Environment and Security [GMOSS]

A network of excellence in the aeronautics and space priority of the Sixth Framework Programme funded by the European Commission’s  Directorate General Enterprise & Industry.

The aim of the GMOSS network of excellence is to integrate Europe’s civil security research so as to acquire and nourish the autonomous knowledge and expertise base Europe needs if it is to develop and maintain an effective capacity for global monitoring using satellite earth observation. The science and technology encompassed within the Network includes:

  1. the generic methods, algorithms and software needed for the automatic interpretation and visualization of imagery including feature recognition, change detection and visualisation;
  2. the specific science and technology needed to provide:
    1. effective monitoring of international treaties protecting against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction;
    2. better estimates of static and dynamic populations on a global scale;
    3. better monitoring of infrastructure and borders;
    4. rapid remote assessments of damage;
  3. investigations of present and future threats to security and the needs for exchange of information between stakeholders during crises;

GMOSS will run for four years and initially consists of 25 organisations from the public and private sectors. The joint programme of research will aim to meet the priorities of users from the civil security sector. Actually the network is composed by 22 partners.

Global Monitoring for Security and Stability (GMOSS) Report: Integrated Scientific and Technological Research Supporting Security Aspects of the European Union, Gunter Zeug and Martino Pesaresi (eds.) September 2008.


Climate Change, Migration and Security, Robert McLeman and Barry Smit, Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Commentary No. 86, March 2004.


Climate Change and Security: Challenges for German Development Cooperation, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH. on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation , April 2008.


The Geopolitics of Climate Change: Challenges to the International System, Peter Haldén, Swedish Defence Research Agency, FOI-R–2377—SE, December 2007.

Whether climate change will be a causal factor in increasing the risk of conflict depends on existing patterns of intra- and inter-state politics as much as it does on the effects of climate change. One of these important factors is the extent to which political leaders of a particular region stand to gain by exploiting climate change to further their own ends. Section 2.5, ‘Paths to violent conflict under conditions of climate change’ outlines ways in which this could take place. The main feature of these situations is the absence of a modern interventionist state and well-functioning market mechanisms.

A great challenge concerning the impact of climate change on international politics is to construct a wide consensus that understands the negative effects of climate change as an issue of common and ‘indivisible’ security. Traditionally, discourses of military security have been based on notions of divisible security whereas environmental discourses have been much easier to formulate in the form of indivisible security. To use a familiar phrase, ‘pollution knows no borders’ whereas military security presupposes borders or in any case boundaries. Therefore, as others have argued in relation to environmental security securitisations with military overtones may undermine the ambition to build an understanding of indivisible security in which climate change would be seen as an equal threat to all states of the world.

This line of thinking must be applied to strategies of adaptation and mitigation alike if these are to foster international stability. As argued above, security dynamics in relation to adaptation measures are not the unique concerns of developing countries, but could also developed among countries in the North unless such measures are met in tandem.

United Kingdom

The National Security Strategy of the United Kingdom: Security in an interdependent world, Cabinet Office, United Kingdom, March 2008.

Tackling climate change

4.83 As set out in Chapter Three, climate change is likely to have serious consequences for international stability and security, and an integrated and international response is urgently needed to tackle cause and effect.

4.84 That includes defensive measures such as greater protection against flooding and sea level surges; modifications to plans for development and the management of resources, such as increased water efficiency, and changes to agricultural crops and practices to mitigate water stress and food insecurity; and changes to energy policy to tackle the causes of climate change, achieving a reduction in global carbon emissions and meeting rising global energy demand in a sustainable way.

4.85 We are working at all levels – from our role in the international community and the EU, to national level, local authorities and communities, and in partnership with businesses and citizens – to make the technological and behavioural transition to a low-carbon economy. The United Kingdom has a leading role to play in multilateral efforts to tackle climate change, including helping to set binding, ambitious commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We are working to develop the global carbon market; to scale up the climate change and clean energy frameworks of the World Bank and other development banks; to strengthen UN institutions working on climate change; build capacity in developing countries to introduce adaptation policies at national and local level; and, in the immediate future, to secure a global framework of climate change commitments for the period after 2012.

4.86 To address the effects on security, we are undertaking a systematic detailed analysis, region by region, of how the impact of climate change is likely to affect the United Kingdom; analysing our water and food security issues to ensure sustainable and secure supplies; and increasing our overall investment in climate change research to at least £100 million over the next five years to investigate the dynamics of long-term climate change, the links to international poverty and the impact of climate change on conflict and other factors.

United States

The Impact of Climate Change to 2030: Commissioned Research and Conference Reports, National Intelligence Council

Following the publication in 2008 of the National Intelligence Assessment on the National Security Implications of Global Climate Change to 20301 the National Intelligence Council (NIC) embarked on a research effort to explore in greater detail the national security implications of climate change in six countries/regions of the world: India, China, Russia, North Africa, Mexico and the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia and the Pacific Island States. For each country/region we are adopting a three-phase approach.

    •    In the first phase, commissioned research reports explore the latest scientific findings on the impact of climate change in the specific region/country.

    •    In the second phase, a workshop or conference composed of experts from outside the Intelligence Community (IC) will determine if anticipated changes from the effects of climate change will force inter- and intra-state migrations, cause economic hardship, or result in increased social tensions or state instability within the country/region.

    •    In the final phase, the NIC Long-Range Analysis Unit (LRAU) will lead an IC effort to identify and summarize for the policy community the anticipated impact on US national security.


National Intelligence Assessment on the National Security Implications of Global Climate Change to 2030, Statement for the Record of Dr. Thomas Fingar, Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis and Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, United States Congress, 25 June 2008.

This study used a fundamentally different kind of analytical methodology from what is typical for an intelligence product such as a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). We depended upon open sources and greatly leveraged outside expertise. Since the Intelligence Community does not conduct climate research, we began our effort by looking for other US government entities that were experts in this area.

We judge global climate change will have wide-ranging implications for US national security interests over the next 20 years. Although the United States will be less affected and is better equipped than most nations to deal with climate change, and may even see a benefit owing to increases in agriculture
productivity, infrastructure repair and replacement will be costly. We judge that the most significant impact for the United States will be indirect and result from climate-driven effects on many other countries and their potential to seriously affect US national security interests. We assess that climate change alone is unlikely to trigger state failure in any state out to 2030, but the impacts will worsen existing problems—such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership, and weak political institutions. Climate change could threaten domestic stability in some states, potentially contributing to intra- or, less likely, interstate conflict, particularly over access to increasingly scarce water resources. We judge that economic migrants will perceive additional reasons to migrate because of harsh climates, both within nations and from disadvantaged to richer countries.

From a national security perspective, climate change has the potential to affect lives (for example, through food and water shortages, increased health problems including the spread of disease, and increased potential for conflict), property (for example through ground subsidence, flooding, coastal erosion, and extreme weather events), and other security interests.  The United States depends on a smooth-functioning international system ensuring the flow of trade and market access to critical raw materials such as oil and gas, and security for its allies and partners. Climate change and climate change policies could affect all of these—domestic stability in a number of key states, the opening of new sea lanes and access to raw materials, and the global economy more broadly—with significant geopolitical consequences.

Global Climate Change National Security Implications, Carolyn Pumphrey (ed.), Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, May 2008.

  • A National Security Issue? How People Tried to Frame Global Warming, Spencer R. Weart
  • A Threat Assessment. Richard A. Matthew
  • Water, Climate Change, and Human Security, Erika Weinthal
  • On Climate Change and Infectious Disease: Implications for Political Destabilization, Andrew Price-Smith
  • Climate Change, Population Movements, Timothy J. McKeown
  • Climate Change: Complicating the Struggle against Extremist Ideology, Kent Hughes Butts
  • Climate Change in the American Mind, Anthony Leiserowitz
  • Achilles’ Other Heel: Early Warning Systems, Michael H. Glantz
  • Defense Planning, Henry H. Gaffney, Jr
  • Climate, Energy, and Security—A Related Set of Challenges, E. Thomas Morehouse, Jr
  • Military Technology and Renewable Energy, David A. Sheets
  • Warfare and Climate Change, Karen Lesley Hulme
  • The Strategic Challenges of the U.S. Army in the Face of Global Climate Change, Douglas V. Johnson II

National Intelligence Council Roundtable on Climate and Environmental Security Meeting Summary, 10 January 2007.

These discussions were intended to support a probable national-level assessment of climate change and national security, as well as build analytic capital looking toward production of the NIC’s Global Trends 2025 study.

Two interesting questions came from this discussion. First, would climate change have a negative effect across the world, or could some “enemy” nations become stronger or more competent because of climate-induced changes?… Second, if the United States cuts greenhouse gas emissions and some “big and dirty” nations like China don’t, would they have increased leverage over the United States?

Effects from climate change are extremely unlikely to occur in isolation. Rather, one disaster can cascade into another or occur simultaneously with another (e.g., pandemic + flood, drought + refugees), making the situation more complicated and dangerous.


Statement Delivered by His Excellency Mr. Afelee F Pita Ambassador/Permanent Representative of Tuvalu to the United Nations at The General Assembly Plenary on the Resolution on “Climate Change and Its Possible Security Implications”, 3rd June 2009

Mr. President, climate change is certainly the most serious threat to global security and the survival of humankind. In particular, it is an issue of enormous concern to a highly vulnerable small island State and low-lying atoll nation like Tuvalu, which resides right at the edge of existence. Tuvalu is not a contributor to the root cause of climate change, yet its people must bear the adverse impacts of a crisis caused by the actions of other countries.Tuvaluans have been among the first to taste the destructive potential of climate change, but we will not be the last. It is for this reason that Tuvalu is urging the Security Council and other relevant organs of the United Nations to treat this issue with the urgency that a security threat of this magnitude deserves.


Military vs. Climate Security: Mapping the Shift from the Bush Years to the Obama Era, Foreign Policy in Focus // Institute for Policy Studies, July 2009

The U.S. military now views the massive disruptions that will result, in the absence of concerted global action, as a likely precipitant of increased violent conflict around the world. Yet U.S. security spending has been overwhelmingly concentrated on the tools of military force. The precursor to this paper, “The Budgets Compared: Military vs. Climate Security” (Institute for Policy Studies, January 20081), found that for FY 2008, the Bush administration allocated $88 federal dollars to military forces for every dollar it devoted to stabilizing the climate. The public interest would be served by closing the enormous gap between federal expenditures on military as opposed to climate security. The grounds for this are: It will make the balance of our security resources more consistent with the relative magnitudes of the threats faced by the nation and the world; In a time of rising unemployment, this shift will create more jobs than the current balance of spending on military and climate security; It will redirect the jobs base toward work the country needs doing.

The Political Consequences of Climate Change,  Paul F. Herman Jr and Gregory Treverton, Survival, 51:2,137 — 148, 2009

Both analytically and politically, one place to start is by disentangling the often confused debate about mitigation versus adaptation. So far, much of the discussion has focused on mitigation: how might the world slow, then turn around, the accumulation of greenhouse gases. Yet, even mitigation strategies well beyond ones that can be imagined now would still leave the world warming for decades. As a result, thinking about the security implications of global warming means thinking about how groups, nations and institutions adapt to what will in any case be the fact of climate change. Hence, even if Schelling is right (and disagreeing with Schelling is always perilous) it is the cumulative, systemic consequences over time that matter. Climate change affects the biosphere which sustains all human endeavour. A single, simple policy line – branding a group ‘terrorist’, recognising a secessionist province as independent – is not enough. Rather, the climate dimension needs to be integral to all policy considerations from foreign aid, nation building and border controls, to food and energy security, technology transfer and trade policy, international law, and multilateral diplomacy. Not to recognise the climate angle behind a range of critical issues in security policy will put prospective policy actions at risk of failure.

Climate change and security: Risks and opportunities for business, Gwynne Dyer, Lloyds and IISS, 2009

1. No-one knows how quickly climate change will happen or how severe the consequences will be. Companies must therefore build a strategy towards climate change into their planning and review their thinking regularly.

2. Climate change need not prevent well-run organisations from succeeding, but it can never again be business as usual.

3. Water will become a scarce commodity commercially and strategically, presenting supply chain and operational challenges for business.

4. Climate change means food production will increasingly fail to meet demand and global food markets could change substantially. The food and catering sectors will face supply challenges, while agribusiness will need to focus on developing sustainable production techniques.

5. Under climate change, energy markets are likely to become more volatile and unpredictable. Shifts in supply or demand could take place rapidly and businesses must plan to meet their energy needs with this in mind.

6. There is a risk of mass migration from the developing to the developed world, because the less advanced economies closer to the equator will suffer most from climate change. Businesses will need to consider the potential impact on their workforce and operations.

7. Business has a vital role to play in the mitigation of and adaptation to climate change.

Rising Temperatures, Rising Tensions: Climate change and the risk of violent conflict in the Middle East, Oli Brown and Alec Crawford, International Institute for Sustainable Development, 2009.

The legacy of conflict undermines the ability of the region to adapt to climate change. Climate change poses some very real security concerns:

THREAT 1 – Climate change may increase competition for scarce water resources, complicating peace agreements

THREAT 2 – Climate change may intensify food insecurity, thereby raising the stakes for the return or retention of occupied land

THREAT 3 – Climate change may hinder economic growth, thereby worsening poverty and social instability

THREAT 4 – Climate change may lead to destabilizing forced migration and increased tensions over existing refugee populations

THREAT 5 – Perceptions of resources shrinking as a result of climate change could increase the militarization of strategic natural resources

THREAT 6 – Inaction on climate change may lead to growing resentment and distrust of the West (and Israel) by Arab nations

There are ways to pursue peace and sustainable development despite a changing climate:

Strategy 1 Fostering a culture of conservation

Strategy 2 Adapting to the impacts of climate change

Strategy 3 Avoiding dangerous climate change

Strategy 4 Enabling regional cooperation and regional engagement

Climate Change and Security: The Test for Australia and Indonesia – involvement or Indifference?, Allan Behm, Austral Peace and Security Network Special Report 09-01S, 12 February 2009

Managing climate security (2), Nick Mabey, China Dialogue, 16 January 2009

Experience of current instability in the Sahel –- especially in Darfur -– shows how quickly disputes over access to resources in times of environmental stress can become politicised and exacerbate existing communal conflicts based on ethnic, religious or other lines. These conflicts develop their own internal dynamics, but will see no sustainable solutions unless the root causes of resource grievances are addressed. Achieving security in a climate-stressed world will require a more pro-active and intensive approach to tackling instability in strategically important regions with high climate vulnerability and weak governance. This will require changes across the security sector, with a stronger incorporation of long-term and structural risk factors into planning and a willingness to engage effectively with tough governance challenges — bringing diplomatic, development, intelligence and law enforcement capabilities to bear. This does not just require implementation of some general “conflict prevention” agenda, but direct focus on the strategic necessity of managing increased resource-use tensions.

Tigers And Dragons: Sustainable Security in Asia and Australasia, Chris Abbott and Sophie Marsden, Oxford Research group and Singapore Institute for International Affairs, November 2008

The meeting identified the regional drivers of insecurity as:

  • Maintaining state integrity
  • The regional power shift
  • Environmental and humanitarian disasters

The blockages to achieving change in the region were identified as:

  • The regional focus on sovereignty and non-interference
  • The lack of inclusive and effective regional security architecture
  • The absence of a powerful but respected and neutral country to take the lead

Climate Change, Food Security and the Right to Adequate Food, Christoph Bals and Sven Harmeling, Germanwatch and Bread for the World (BfdW), October 2008

Sharon Burke on Climate Change and Security, The New Security Beat, 3 September 2008.

Near the top of my “what if” list is, “What if this administration had taken the threat of global climate change seriously and acted as though our future depended on cutting emissions and cooperating on adaptation?” From July 27-30, 2008, my organization, the Center for a New American Security, led a consortium of 10 scientific, private, and public policy organizations in an experiment to answer this particular “what if.” The experiment, a climate change “war game,” tested what a change in U.S. position might mean in 2015, when the effects of climate change will likely be more apparent and the global need to act will be more urgent.

Climate Change Wargame Consortium, Center for New American Security.

The Clout & Climate Change war game brought together high-level scientists, national security strategists, former policymakers, former military officers, environmentalists, and private sector representatives from the United States, Europe, Asia, and South Asia to work together to develop strategies for dealing with the national security consequences of global climate change. The exercise focuses on four of the world’s major economies: the United States, the European Union, China, and India. Delegates to Clout & Climate Change played on one of five teams: the United States, the EU, China, India, and an international team that includes key stakeholders from the rest of the world, such as Japan, Russia, and Brazil. Each team reacted to simulations and projections for the years 2015 and 2050, based on extensive research and sophisticated climate modeling.The goal of this war game was and still is to explore new possibilities for preventing and adapting to global climate change. CNAS will publish a report on the findings in an effort to help guide the next American president in crafting a new U.S. climate change policy.

Mixing climate change with the war on terror, Lyle Hopkins, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 26 August 2008.

Although there are certain connections between environmental degradation and the causes of violence and extremism (the scarcity of arable land in Sudan is a frequent example), we must resist conflating the issues by militarizing our response to climate change. Yet, there’s a real danger that terrorism and climate change will become inextricably linked in the minds of the foreign policy community and public, as certain policy analysts at influential think tanks are contributing to the emergence of a dangerous narrative that seeks to use climate change-induced regional instability as an excuse to continue the war on terror. For example, “The Age of Consequences,” a document by the recently established think tank Center for a New American Security (CNAS) that is supposedly devoted to the impacts of climate change, references terror, terrorist, or terrorism at least 37 times. As for who will be conducting these terrorist attacks, Islam is mentioned at least 11 times, 8 of which are references to Islamic terrorists or Islamic extremism; the remaining 3 all describe Islamic populations as sources of friction within countries or with the West. (Interestingly, there’s no mention of any potential exacerbation among non-Islamic extremists such as Timothy McVeigh, Eric Robert Rudolph, or members of the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo.)

Sahel climate change diary – Day 1, Jan Egeland , IRIN, 2 June 2008.

[The UN Secretary General’s Special Advisor on conflict, Jan Egeland, is travelling in the Sahel this week to draw the world’s attention to a region the UN says is experiencing the worst effects of climate change in the world. He is writing a diary for IRIN, and this is the first instalment from the Burkina Faso capital, Ouagadougou.]

There’s a very academic discussion happening in Europe right now still asking ‘is the climate already changing’ and ‘is climate change noticeable today’. Here in Burkina Faso that debate is not happening, because the effects already speak for themselves. I learned today that in areas where previously it never rained, people would bury their money in the ground for safekeeping because they do not have access to banks. Last year when torrential rain hit some of these areas, the ground turned into a quagmire and money was floating away in the flood waters, along with people’s houses and everything they own.

That is a good example of just how bizarre the new realities people are facing here as they grapple with weather conditions they have never seen before. Another big fallout of course is on agriculture. People plant seedlings when the rain is supposed to start and then there is nothing, or very little rain, so the seedlings dry up and die. And then suddenly there is this massive rain that comes as a flood and everything is washed away.

Jan Egeland’s Sahel climate change diary – Day 2, Jan Egeland, IRIN, 4 June 2008.

Echoing what I heard yesterday in Burkina Faso – Mali’s eastern neighbour and where I started this week-long trip in the Sahel – I today heard from President Amadou Toumani Toure, the prime minister and other senior officials about how dwindling, unpredictable rainfall, water shortages and the steady creep of the Sahara desert into more and more of Mali’s arable land and the Niger River are forcing agricultural and pastoral communities into each others’ territories and provoking frequent clashes.

Colombian drug smugglers with unlimited money to bribe seem to buy and fight for control of trans-Saharan routes to ship their drugs to Europe and the Gulf. They are undermining the government and make large parts of the country unsafe.

Jan Egeland’s Sahel climate change diary – Day 3, Jan Egeland, IRIN, 5 June 2008.

Jan Egeland’s Sahel climate change diary – Day 4, Jan Egeland, IRIN, 6 June 2008.

Jan Egeland’s Sahel climate change diary – Day 5, Jan Egeland, IRIN, 7 June 2008.

As was explained to me by the Nigerien minister of water who travelled with me in one of the many cars in our convoy through the desert, there are already many conflicts between and among nomads and agricultural people in Niger, and between various ethnic groups, because of the scarcity of resources. Others have estimated that around Lake Chad there are as many as 30 or more named armed groups, and the potential for increased conflict is endless.

As I wind up this intensive trip to three countries and dozens of sites over the last five days, I more and more think that this journey should become obligatory for all the delegates going to the Copenhagen climate change conference at the end of next year. It would have reminded people what it is all about, namely life or death for millions of people. There is so much at stake, so much has already been lost by the most vulnerable people. But this trip also served as an encouragement. People can adapt to climate change – if they are helped. We saw people living on the old seabed of Lake Chad and Lake Faguibine in Mali. People are also devising new ways of harvesting water. But with the current population growth, there must be more investment in overall climate change adaptation. The millions of new mouths to feed will not be fed if people are left to fend for themselves.

So is the answer to be found in Copenhagen? Billions, if not trillions, must be spent on climate change mitigation, but equal amounts must go to adaptation, especially in countries in the first line of defence here in the Sahel. Hopefully one day these boats that are now beached on Lake Chad can be on water again, and new shell fish can come where there are only dunes.

Environmental Change and the New Security Agenda: Implications for Canada’s security and environment, Oli Brown, Alec Crawford, Christine Campeau, International Institute for Sustainable Development, June 2008.

This paper investigates how environmental change and Canadian security are interlinked. First, it attempts to chart the ways in which global environmental change (such as climate change and environmental mismanagement) affect Canada‘s domestic security and the welfare of Canadian interests overseas. Three particular challenges stand out: the first is the struggle for control of shipping routes across a warming Arctic; the second is the hunt for new sources of energy; and the third is environmental security in regions of diplomatic, economic and military importance to Canada.

Second, the paper analyzes the links between environment and security from the opposite direction. We assess the environmental implications of Canada‘s current national security focus on the prevention of terrorism. This approach to Canadian security, which we call ?the new security agenda‘, has been evolving in response to the growing threat of international terrorism since the early 1990s.

In a world of competing priorities and limited budgets this has inevitably brought the new security agenda into direct competition with other areas of federal policy—including environmental management. The way that Canada and its allies pursue their security can have both positive and negative consequences for the environment that must be incorporated into any cost-benefit analysis of Canadian policy; in terms of governance and regulatory impacts, the scope for effective environmental management and the direct environmental impacts of new security measures. Two aspects of the new security agenda have particular relevance for the Canadian environment: the North American quest for
energy independence, and increased border security.

Research Study: The World’s Changing Maritime Industry and a Vision for Japan, Ocean Policy Research Foundation, May 2008.

Assessing the security implications of climate change for West Africa: Country case studies of Ghana and Burkina Faso, Oli Brown and Alec Crawford, International Institute for Sustainable Development, 2008.

We made a conscious decision to frame our discussions in terms of the impact of climate change on economic and political stability, rather than on outright violent conflict. We then followed up specific themes and issues in a series of individual meetings and consultations in each country. We aggregated this information with the available literature to arrive at seven broad findings:

2. Climate change is not new to West Africa.West Africa in general and the Sahelian region in particular are characterized by some of the most variable climates on the planet. Climate variability seems to have become particularly pronounced in the twentieth century.

4. There are links between climate change and security in the region. There is anecdotal evidence that climate change has already been associated with conflict in West Africa. However, there is little research that has managed to construct an empirical link between climate change and conflict in the region (or, for that matter, anywhere else). That is not to say that such a link might not appear in future, but the drivers of conflict and instability are complex.

5. Climate change could exacerbate existing, latent tensions in Ghana and Burkina Faso.

6. But only in the extreme scenarios does climate change begin to present a determining factor in future economic and political instability. It was not until the worst case scenarios that the experts in our workshops and interviews felt that impacts of climate change could themselves present deterministic factors in serious future economic and political instability, or indeed in violent conflict.

7. Adaptation needs to focus on the full range of development problems affecting countries.

Climate Change, National Security, and the Quadrennial Defense Review: Avoiding the Perfect Storm, John T. Ackerman, Security Studies Quarterly, Spring 2008.

Irregular, disruptive, traditional, and catastrophic challenges are surfacing as a result of global climate change and could merge into a “perfect storm” with disastrous consequences. In response, the Department of Defense (DoD) must blend the sustainability tenets of environmental security, ecological economics, and social/environmental equity with the pillars of the democratic peace theory.

The conflict ameliorating powers of democracy, economic interdependence, and international organizations operating within the finite environmental, economic, and social limits of the sustainability tenets will enable the DoD to mitigate and adapt to the multiple challenges from climate change and build for the United States and for all other democratic states sustainable security. The process will also require that all activities using US instruments of power be unified to create sustainable security by peacefully spreading democracy, encouraging economic cooperation, and leveraging the cooperative functions of international organizations.

Delivering Climate Security: International Security Responses to a Climate Changed World, Nick Mabey, Whitehall Papers 69, RUSI, 23 April 2008 [subscription required]

This Whitehall Paper argues that the international response to climate security threats has been ‘slow and inadequate’ and nations need to integrate climate change into their security policy to prepare for worst case scenarios. In the next decades, climate change will drive as significant a change in the strategic security environment as the end of the Cold War. If uncontrolled, climate change will have security implications of similar magnitude to the World Wars, but which will last for centuries. The past will provide no guide to this coming future; a robust response will require clear assessments based on the best scientific projections. Security sector actors must not just prepare to respond to the security challenges of climate change; they must also be part of the solution. This Whitehall Paper outlines a framework for climate security analysis and some of its implications for security policy, practice and institutional change.

Future floods of refugees, Vikram Odedra Kolmannskog, Norwegian Refugee Council, April 2008.

From a forced migration perspective, the term is flawed for several reasons. The term “climate refugees” implies a mono-causality that one rarely finds in human reality. No one factor, event or process, inevitably results in forced migration or conflict. It is very likely that climate change impacts will contribute to an increase in forced migration. Because one cannot completely isolate climate change as a cause however, it is difficult, if not impossible, to stipulate any numbers.

It is likely that developing countries in lower latitudes will continue in the near future to be the hotspots in several senses of the word. Faced with climate change, there may be some increase in planned migration that is longer-distance, longer-term and more permanent. Increased urbanisation with the possibility of secondary migration can also be expected. But most of the forced migration and conflict related to climate change, is likely to remain internal and regional. While the developed countries bear the main responsibility for climate change, one could question whether the dynamics of climate change, conflict and forced migration can and should be portrayed as a threat image of masses of refugees flooding over western borders. The sad truth is that there will be real floods, and if nothing changes, many of the affected will have little choice but to return and risk further flooding.

From a legal point of view the term climate refugees is also inaccurate. Resorting to quick-fix solutions of new laws and policies often fulfils an action function, the need to be seen to act, but closer consideration of the existing prevention and protection possibilities may prove helpful before new measures are enacted.

Implications of Climate Change for Armed Conflict, Halvard Buhaug, Nils Petter Gleditsch and Ole Magnus Theisen, Social Dimensions of Climate Change,  World Bank, 5–6 March 2008.

Given the notable lack of robust findings, the general literature on environmental
conflict has few immediate policy implications to offer. However, the theorized indirect nature of the environment-conflict nexus offers some insights into where future development and peacebuilding efforts should be targeted. Six recommendations are identified:

1. Invest in vigorous, systematic research. Global climate change policy is crucially dependent upon the early warning of events in areas that have not necessarily had such problems in the past. For this, we need better generalizable knowledge. Precise point predictions are not realistic, but general models can provide guidance as to the probability of future problems and thus help to select priority areas for remedial action.

2. Promote more systematic environmental accounting. The debate so far has rightly focused on the negative impact of climate change. A more systematic assessment is needed of positive vs. negative effects, including effects for security, with a view to targeting countermeasures and mitigation most effectively.

3. Assess the security effects of countermeasures to climate change. Drastic mitigation and adaptation measures may themselves have significant security effects; these need to be assessed in order to find the best countermeasures overall.

4. Use development policies for peacebuilding. The probable causal chains from climate change to insecurity run through economic and social mechanisms. Until systematic research succeeds in uncovering specified and robust associations between climate change and armed conflict, investing in sustainable development in vulnerable societies may be the best instrument for promoting peace and security.

5. Prioritize the most vulnerable societies. Today’s conflict-prone societies face a double security challenge through additional climate-imposed strains on human health and livelihood. This is likely to exacerbate the differences between those who are able to adapt to a changing environment and those who are caught in the ‘conflict trap’.

6. Include security issues in the next round of IPCC assessments. In contrast to the natural science of climate change, the social implications lack solid research foundation and are dealt with by the IPCC only in scattered comments. If the security implications of climate change are to be taken seriously in the policy debate, the IPCC should take the lead in investigating them systematically.

The New Front Line: Security in a changing world, Ian Kearns and Ken Gude, Institute for Public Policy Research, ippr Commission on National Security, Working Paper No. 1, February 2008.

[Ed.: Largely geographic review.] Climate change is set to have direct consequences for the UK both here at home and in relation to important overseas assets, is likely to provoke new inter-state tensions and to generate new sources and instances of state failure, particularly in Africa, and may even play a major role in shaping the character and outlook of a major power like China. It may also put added pressure on social unity in developed countries in a context in which that unity is already under strain. This all amounts to a very significant destabilising pressure in a number of important states and regions around the world and in terms of its security consequences, may yet come to dwarf and over-shadow the currently high-profile issue of terrorism.

Real and Imag?nary R?sks, Anatol Lieven, The World Today, Volume 64, Number 2, February 2008.

We need to turn our risk analysis of Pakistan on its head and assess it, above all, in terms of US policy. Meanwhile other, far greater long-term threats to its viability as an organised state and society are completely ignored, not just by the media and policymakers, but by most area specialists. These relate above all to the potentially catastrophic coming together, several decades in the future, of population growth and the effects of climate change on water supplies…Quite apart from the direct threat to India from climate change, it is extremely unlikely that the Indian state could survive in its present form if the even more endangered states of Pakistan and Bangladesh on either side collapsed.

The Security Implications of Climate Change, John Podesta and Peter Ogden, The Washington Quarterly, February 2008.

[Ed.: Largely geographic review]. Over the next three decades, the spread and advancement of information and communication technologies will enable the public to follow these crises more closely, making it difficult to ignore the widening chasm between how the world’s haves and have-nots are affected by climate change. Ultimately, the threat of desensitization could prove one of the gravest threats of all, for the national security and foreign policy challenges posed by climate change are tightly interwoven with the moral challenge of helping those least responsible to cope with its effects.

World in Transition – Climate Change as a Security Risk, German Advisory Council on Global Change, Earthscan, London, January 2008.

[Book length pdf file.] See also Summary for Policy Makers (see below), Figures, and Expert Studies.

An Uncertain Future: Law Enforcement, National Security and Climate Change, Oxford Research Group, January 2008.

Major areas of potential strain for the police and security services are likely to include:

  1. Demands for greater border security

  2. Changes in rates and types of crime

  3. Policing new legislation

  4. Responding to natural disasters

At the same time, there will be important operational and strategic concerns that military planners will need to consider over the coming decades:

  1. Difficulties maintaining military capability

  2. Loss of strategic defence assets

  3. Greater calls for peacetime deployments

  4. Instability in strategically important regions.

At each stage of the chain – from climate change, to socio-economic impacts, to security consequences – the conclusions drawn become less certain. But each link also represents an opportunity; an opportunity for prevention, mitigation and adaptation, meaning that the security consequences outlined in this report are by no means certain – provided national governments, regional organisations and international institutions can rapidly put in place the necessary policies.

Enabling Strategic Intelligence on Energy and Environmental Security Impacts and Consequences, International Design Team Meeting, Glasgow, Scotland 8-9 November 2007, Executive Summary, December 10, 2007.

  • At the national level, decision-makers lack sufficient knowledge regarding how key energy and the environmental security relationships can affect regional and global stability.

  • A viable strategic intelligence capability for energy and environmental security issues does not lend itself to the traditional national security framework.

  • Today’s strategic environment features security-related challenges that are global in scale and systemic in nature, and can best be assessed with a strategic intelligence capability that is similarly global and systemic.

  • The Glasgow Group suggests building a new global commons security capability; i.e., an energy and environmental ‘knowledge ecosystem’ in which a broad diversity of entities contribute to knowledge creation, aggregation, filtering and sense-making.

Making Sense of Climate Change, Natural Disasters, and Displacement: A Work in Progress, Elizabeth Ferris, Brookings-Bern Project On Internal Displacement, Calcutta Research Group Winter Course, December 2007.

It seems fairly certain that climate change has the potential to displace more people by increasing the frequency and severity of natural disasters, particularly hydrometeorological events. It is also likely that most of those displaced by these types of events will remain within their country’s borders.

If we are to demonstrate a causal connection between environmental change and displacement, we need to demonstrate that migration increases when environmental degradation gets worse and those studies simply don’t exist.

The relationship between climate change and slow-onset disasters is more complex and further work is needed to explore the relationship between poverty, climate change, and displacement.

The Conquering of Climate: Discourses of Fear and Their Dissolution (in press), Mike Hulme, Submitted to The Geographical Journal, November 2007.

This paper examines two earlier European discourses of fear associated withclimate – one from the early-modern era (climate as judgement) and one from the modern era (climate as pathology) – and traces the ways in which these discourses formed and dissolved within a specific cultural matrix. The contemporary discourse of fear about future climate change (climate as catastrophe) is summarised and some ways in which this discourse, too, might be dissolved are examined. Conventional attempts at conquering the climatic future all rely, implicitly or explicitly, upon ideas of control and mastery, whether of the planet, of global governance or of individual and collective behaviour.

These attempts at ‘engineering’ future climate seem a degree utopian and brash.

Understanding the cultural dimensions of climate discourses offers a different way of thinking about how we navigate the climatic future. However our contemporary climatic fears have emerged – as linked, for example, to neo-liberal globalism, to ecological modernisation and the emergence of a risk society, or to a deeper instinctive human anxiety about the future – they will in the end be dissipated, re-configured or transformed as a function of cultural change.

Preparing for a warmer world: Towards a global governance system to protect climate refugees, Frank Bierman and Ingrid Boas, Global Governance Working Paper No 33, November 2007.

We outline a blueprint for a global governance architecture for the protection and voluntary resettlement of climate refugees. .. Key elements of our proposal are a new legal instrument specifically tailored to the needs of climate refugees.

The Age of Consequences: The Foreign Policy and National Security Implications of Global Climate Change, Center for a New American Security and Center for Strategic and International Studies, November 2007. [Executive summary].

For each of the three plausible climate scenarios, we asked a national security expert to consider the projected environmental effects of global warming and map out the possible consequences for peace and stability. Further, we enlisted a historian of science to consider whether there was anything to learn from the experience of earlier civilizations confronted with rampant disease, flooding, or other forms of natural disaster. Each climate scenario was carefully constructed and the three corresponding national security futures were thoroughly
debated and discussed by the group. [See also Lyle, 2008, for comment.]

Climate Change and National Security: An Agenda for Action, Joshua W. Busby, Council Special Report No. 32, Council on Foreign Relations Press, November 2007

Climate Change, Environmental Degradation, and Conflict Prevention: A Roundtable Discussion to Identify Policy and Programming Options, Environmental Change and Security Program, November 2007

A Climate of Conflict: The Links Between Climate Change, Peace and War, Dan Smith and Janani Vivekananda, International Alert, November 2007.

To understand how the effects of climate change will interact with socio-economic and political problems in poorer countries means tracing the consequences of consequences. This process highlights four key elements of risk – political instability, economic weakness, food insecurity and large-scale migration.

In most of the countries that face the double-headed problem of climate change and violent conflict, the governments cannot be expected to take on the task of adaptation alone. … What is required is international cooperation to support local action, both as a way of strengthening international security and to achieve the goals of sustainable development.

The double-headed problem of climate change and violent conflict thus has a unified solution – peacebuilding and adaptation are effectively the same kind of activity, involving the same kinds of methods of dialogue and social engagement, requiring from governments the same values of inclusivity and transparency. At the same time as adaptation to climate change can and must be made conflict-sensitive, peacebuilding and development must be made climate-sensitive.

Conceptualizing climate change governance: beyond the international regime: a review of four theoretical approaches, Chukwumerije Okereke and Harriet Bulkeley, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, Working Paper 112, October 2007.

We review four theoretical approaches for considering the governance of climate change at the international level – regime theory, global governance, neo-Gramscian and governmentality perspectives – to assess their respective strengths and weaknesses. Based on the review, we draw out some concepts around which future research on the involvement of non-nation state actors (NNSAs) in global climate governance might be framed. These include: (i) the nature of the state; (ii) the character of power and authority in the international arena; (iii) the underlying dynamics of governance; and (iv) governance as a process. We conclude that although eclecticism is hardly celebrated in the IR scholarship, one ultimately would have to draw from the four theoretical traditions in order to generate a robust framework for conceptualizing climate governance beyond the international regime.

Disaster Risk Reduction: A Front Line Defense against Climate Change and Displacement, Peter Walker, Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement.  10 October 2007.

Today’s humanitarian emergencies are a consequence of improperly managing complex systems. Natural systems (as all global systems) are becoming increasingly complex, multiplying the potential for disaster. Multiple forces are affecting the complexity of natural systems including the following: climate change, globalization, urbanization and migration, organized violence, and the phenomenon of ‘us and them’. Disasters can no longer be treated as an aberration Rather, most disasters are part of complex and protracted crises.”

Practically speaking, this increase in complexity has implications for governments as well as people affected by disasters. Bilateral relationships between states, especially those that involve a state from the North and a state from the South, are returning more and more to a model which resembles the core-periphery interaction of metropoles and colonies of the past.

International Conference on Climate Change and Security, Consortium of Non-Traditional Security Studies in Asia, October 2007.

Monitoring Environment and Security: Integrating concepts and enhancing methodologies, BICC Brief 37, Lars Wirkus and Ruth Vollmer (eds.) Bonn International Center for Conversion – Internationales Konversionszentrum Bonn, September 2007.

This Seminar was organized by BICC in cooperation with GMOSS (Global Monitoring for Security and Stability). The initiative for the seminar was rooted in three different factors:

  • Environmental security and questions concerning the conflict relevance of environmental change have featured more significantly than ever before on the political agenda.

  • Environmental monitoring has been a classical application area of remote sensing (RS). However, faced with the recent developments and insights on global environmental and climate change, GMOSS has initiated a new discussion on how the application of available RS technologies can be beneficial to this area of research.

  • The political science-oriented framework provided by the research BICC and other invited institutions have conducted in this field was hoped to spark initiatives for interdisciplinary cooperation.

The primary goal of the seminar was thus to locate GMOSS thematically in the field of environment and security research. The focus was on (1) the identification of research gaps in this field and (2) the elaboration of options for interdisciplinary cooperation, especially with regard to how opportunities and benefits of remote sensing can be implemented in the framework of the challenges posed by global environmental and climate change. Brief 37 collects the results of the seminar and shows where further research is needed and also where and how cooperation is seen to be most important and beneficial.

The New Myth About Climate Change, Idean Salehyan, Foreign Policy, August 2007.

Dire scenarios like these may sound convincing, but they are misleading. Even worse, they are irresponsible, for they shift liability for wars and human rights abuses away from oppressive, corrupt governments. Additionally, focusing on climate change as a security threat that requires a military response diverts attention away from prudent adaptation mechanisms and new technologies that can prevent the worst catastrophes. If the grimmest scenarios come to pass and environmental change contributes to war, human rights abuse, and even genocide, it will be reckless political leaders who deserve much of the blame.

Climate Change and Conflict: The Migration Link, Nils Petter Gleditsch, Ragnhild Nordås and Idean Salehyan, International Peace Academy, May 2007.

We find that much of the literature is speculative and difficult to substantiate given data constraints. Indeed, current debates frequently focus on possible scenarios in the future, which are inherently difficult to test, although they should not be discounted. Then, we focus on what we believe to be a plausible link between climate shifts and problems for human security: mass migration. Climate change is likely to be a significant factor leading to mass exodus from increasingly uninhabitable areas, and population shifts stemming directly or indirectly from environmental pressures can place significant burdens on migrant receiving areas. However, we emphasize the importance of good governance, local integration capacity, and international agents as mitigating factors, and discuss effective policy responses.

Testimony of General Charles Wald, USAF (Ret.), Member, Military Advisory Board to the CNA Corporation Report National Security And The Threat Of Climate Change” before the Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate, May 9, 2007.

If we look at Darfur, we can see that impact of climate change is not just an issue off in the distant future; it is having an affect on security today. The conflict in Darfur has many root causes, but one of its key instigators was driven by climate…It’s important to note that the examples I have given, while all from the African continent can be replicated elsewhere. Our view is that climate change could be a threat multiplier in every global region.

Testimony of Admiral Joseph Prueher, USN (Ret.), Member, Military Advisory Board to the CNA Corporation Report National Security And The Threat Of Climate Change” before the Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate, May 9, 2007.

Our key findings:

  • Projected climate change poses a serious threat to America’s national security.
  • Climate change acts as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world.
  • Projected climate change will add to tensions even in stable regions of the world.
  • Climate change, national security and energy dependence are a related set of global challenges.”

There are the points I’d like to stress:

  • There is a direct linkage between climate change and energy security. As we work to address one, we can make progress toward the other.
  • Climate change will exacerbate many of the causes of instability that exist today. Those instabilities are part of the underpinnings of extremism.
  • Climate change will become a significant national security issue.

Beyond Terror: The Truth About the Real Threats to Our World, Chris Abbott, Paul Rogers and John Sloboda, April 2007 (Rider) [expanded edition of Global Responses to Global Threats: Sustainable Security for the 21st Century, Chris Abbott, Paul Rogers and John Sloboda, Oxford Research Group, June 2006]

Climate Change and Security Conference – Video, Triangle Institute for Security Studies, March 2007.

Climate Change and Foreign Policy: An exploration of options for greater integration, John Drexhage, Deborah Murphy, Oli Brown, Aaron Cosbey, Peter Dickey, Jo-Ellen Parry, John Van Ham, Richard Tarasofsky, Beverley Darkin, IISD, 2007.

Energy Security and Climate Change, John Deutch, Anne Lauvergeon, and Widhyawan Prawiraatmadja, Trilateral Commission, Task Force Report 61, 2007.

  • John Deutsch, former director, CIA

  • Anne Lauvergeon, CEO, Areva

  • Widhyawan Prawiraatmadja, head of corporate planning, Pertamina

Climate change and conflict, Ragnhild Nordas and Nils Petter Gleditsch, Political Geography 26 (2007) pp. 627-638.

On 17 April 2007, climate change was debated in the Security Council, which established it as a security issue. Despite the breadth of this security concern in the public debate, statements about security implications have so far largely been based on speculation and questionable sources. Even the IPCC, which rightly prides itself of being a synthesis of the best peer-reviewed science, has fallen prey to relying on second- or third-hand information with little empirical backing when commenting on the implications of climate change for conflict. The research frontier is being pushed forward in both climate change research and conflict research, but given the combined uncertainties of the two fields, the gaps in our knowledge appear daunting.

Climate change, human security and violent conflict, Jon Barnett and W. Neil Adger, Political Geography 26 (2007) 639 – 655.

International Crisis Group, Climate change and conflict, ICG, June 2007.

 World in Transition: Climate Change as a Security Risk – Summary for policy-makers, German Advisory Council on Global Change, May 2007

National Security and the Threat of Climate Change, Environmental Change and Security Program, May 2007

Statement at the Security Council debate on energy, security and climate, Ban Ki-moon, Security Council, United Nations, 17 April 2007.

Beyond terrorism: towards sustainable security, Chris Abbott,, 17 April 2007.

Center for Naval Analyses, National Security and the Threat of Climate Change, CNA Corporation, 16 April 2007.

Beyond Terrorism: Towards Sustainable Security, Chris Abbott, openDemocracy, 16 April 2007

Climate Change and Human Security, Ben Wisner, Maureen Fordham, Ilan Kelman, Barbara Rose Johnston, David Simon, Allan Lavell, Hans Günter Brauch, Ursula Oswald Spring, Gustavo Wilches-Chaux, Marcus Moench, and Daniel Weiner, Radix – Radical Interpretations of Disaster, 15 April 2007.

National Intelligence Council Study Group, The Strategic Implications of Climate Change, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 13 April 2007.

Who Cares about the Weather? Climate Change and U.S. National Security, Joshua Busby, March 2007.

John P. Holdren, Science and Technology for Sustainable Well-Being, Presidential Lecture at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 15 February 2007

Derek B. Miller, Security Needs Assessments and their Role in the New International Security Agenda,  UNIDIR, January 2007

Scientific Expert Group on Climate Change, [Rosina M. Bierbaum, John P. Holdren, Michael C. MacCracken, Richard H. Moss, and Peter H. Raven (eds.)], Confronting Climate Change: Avoiding the Unmanageable and Managing the Unavoidable: Report prepared for the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, Sigma Xi and the United Nations Foundation, 2007. 

The Urgent Need to Increase Adaptative Capacities: Evidence from Kenyan Drylands, Siri Eriksen, Kirsten Ulsrud, Jeremy Lind and Bernard Muok, African Centre for Technology Studies, Conflicts And Adaptation Policy Brief 2, November 2006.

The consequences of existing climate stress and future climate changes are becoming less manageable for a growing section of dryland populations due to diminishing capacities and options to adapt. First, people adapt their livelihoods in relation to multiple and inter-related sources of insecurity, of which climate stress may not be the most important. Second, conflict has had a fundamental impact on adaptation to climate stress through the creation of absolute destitute groups. Third, vulnerability among dryland populations is shaped by the marginalisation of certain groups and areas, both in terms of the poor provision of policing and security by the state and in terms of low levels of investments in basic infrastructure like water, roads, schools and health facilitites in remote rural areas.

The way that people adapt to climate stress in conflict areas demonstrates the importance of political structures, in terms of power relations and institutions, in shaping vulnerability. When adaptation is discussed, it is normally assumed that the area in consideration is peaceful.

Furthermore, the strengthening of civil society is critical not only in the management of peaceful interactions, but also in ensuring types of local development that can contribute to adaptation.

Heating Up The Planet: Climate Change And Security, Alan Dupont and Graeme Pearman, Lowy Institute Paper 12, June 2006.

Crucially, however, there is no consensus about appropriate strategies for dealing with the consequences of climate change, primarily because there is no agreement about its seriousness for international security.

Climate change will complicate and threaten Australia’s security environment in several ways.

First, weather extremes and greater fluctuations in rainfall and temperatures have the capacity to refashion the region’s productive landscape and exacerbate food, water and energy scarcities in a relatively short time span. Sea-level rise is of particular concern because of the density of coastal populations and the potential for the large-scale displacement of people in Asia.

Secondly, climate change will contribute to destabilising, unregulated population movements in Asia and the Pacific. Most of these flows are likely to be internal, but the ripple effects will be felt beyond the borders of the states most affected, requiring cooperative regional solutions.

Thirdly, more extreme weather patterns will result in greater death and destruction from natural disasters, adding to the burden on poorer countries and stretching the resources and coping ability of even the most developed nations.

Fourthly, extreme weather events and climate-related disasters will not only trigger short-term disease spikes but also have more enduring health security consequences, since some infectious diseases will become more widespread as the planet heats up.

Fifthly, even if not catastrophic in themselves, the cumulative impact of rising temperatures, sea levels and more mega droughts on agriculture, fresh water and energy could threaten the security of states in Australia’s neighbourhood by reducing their carrying capacity below a minimum threshold, thereby undermining the legitimacy and response capabilities of their governments and jeopardising the security of their citizens. Where climate change coincides with other transnational challenges to security, such as terrorism or pandemic diseases, or adds to pre-existing ethnic and social tensions, then the impact will be magnified. However, state collapse and destabilising internal conflicts is a more likely outcome than interstate war.”

Recommendation 5: Policy makers must factor climate wild cards into their security calculations and alternative futures planning and ‘think the unthinkable’.

Climate Change, Environmental Degradation and Armed Conflict, Clionadh Raleigh and Henrik Urdal, International Studies Association, March 2006.

We argue that our best guess about the future has to be based on our knowledge about the relationship between environment and violent conflict in areas that already experience forms of environmental change that we think will increase with climate change. Previous rigorous studies in the field have mostly focused on national level aggregates. This article represents a new approach to assess the impact of environment on domestic armed conflict by using geo-referenced (GIS) data and small geographical, rather than political, units of analysis. It addresses some of the most important factors assumed to be strongly influenced by global warming: land degradation, freshwater scarcity, and population density and change. The preliminary results indicate that the relationships between local level demographic/ environmental factors and conflict are not uniform.

Climate Change and Forced Displacements: Towards a Global Environmental Responsibility? The Case of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the South Pacific Ocean, François Gemenne, Les Cahiers du CEDEM, Université de Liège, January 2006.

Using the case of Tuvalu as a starting point, this paper tries to imagine which means of international cooperation could provide a new global public good : the protection of climate change ‘refugees’.

Climate Change and Foreign Policy – An exploration of options for greater integration, John Drexhage, Deborah Murphy, Oli Brown, Aaron Cosbey, Peter Dickey, Jo-Ellen Parry, John Van Ham, Richard Tarasofsky and Beverley Darkin, International Institute for Sustainable Development and Chatham House, 2006.

Climate Change and Forced Displacements: Towards a Global Environmental Responsibility? The Case of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the South Pacific Ocean, François Gemenne, Les Cahiers du CEDEM, Université de Liège, January 2006.

Vulnerability to abrupt climate change in Europe, Nigel Arnell, Emma Tompkins, Neil Adger and Kate Delaney, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research Technical Report 34, November 2005.

Greening the Security Council: Climate Change as an Emerging ‘Threat to International Peace and Security’, Christopher K. Penny, Human Security and Climate Change Workshop, 21–23 June 2005.

Security and Climate Change: Towards an Improved Understanding, Jon Barnett and Neil Adger, Workshop on Human Security and Climate Change Workshop, 20–21 June 2005.

Environmental Influences on Pastoral Conflict in the Horn of Africa, Patrick Meier and Doug Bond, Human Security and Climate Change l Workshop, 21–23 June 2005.

A natural question is what public policy could (or should) do to prevent pastoral conflict in the Karamoja Cluster. We have seen that low forage availability during the end of the dry season prompts pastoralists to migrate in search of productive patches of land and water resources. Human casualties and livestock losses soared during this time period, just before the onset of the rainy season. The violence in the Karamoja Cluster is clearly linked to environmental scarcity.

Existing regional mechanisms such as CEWARN and FEWS have the ability to coordinate their modular data collection processes and share their behavioral and environmental data and forecasts in a timely way… Providing local government representatives with more timely and integrated information can serve to improve local governance and peaceful conflict resolution norms.

Climate Conflicts: Common Sense or Nonsense? Ragnhild Nordås and Nils Petter Gleditsch, PRIO, January 2005.

The suggested causal chains from climate change to social consequences like conflict is long and fraught with uncertainties. One could ask whether it is indeed conceptually fruitful to be talking about climate change and conflict at all. Climate change is such a wide term that it can be hard to use in any meaningful sense in research, and grasp it in a holistic manner, as there seem to be no direct effects between climate change and violent conflict. Climate change covers most of the aspects that have been treated in the resources and conflict literature, and also the environmental security and conflict literature.

State of the World 2005: Redefining Global Security, WorldWatch Institute, January 2005.

Environment and Human Security, Freedom from Hazard Impacts, Hans Gunter Brauch, InterSecTions No. 2, United Nations University, Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), 2005.

The goal of this “think piece” is to outline how to put environmental security challenges (hazards, slow and abrupt changes) on the agenda of the human security community and to develop a human security perspective on environmental challenges. It addresses the following questions:

a) How has security been reconceptualised since 1990?

b) How have the environment and security linkages been conceptualised so far?

c) How has the human security concept evolved?

d) How can the human security perspective be introduced into analysis of environmental challenges?

e) How could the environmental dimension of human security analysis be strengthened?

f) How can these conceptual considerations be translated into action to enhance the potential for environmental conflict avoidance, early warning of hazards and conflicts and better disaster preparedness?

Climate Change, Migration and Security, Robert McLeman and Barry Smit, Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Commentary No. 86, March 2004.

The Security Implications of Climate Change for the UN System,  Nigel Purvis and Joshua Busby, Environmental Change and Security Project Report, 2004.

Climate stabilisation and “dangerous” climate change: A review of the relevant issues, Nick Brooks, John Gash, Mike Hulme, Chris Huntingford, Bo Kjellen, Jonathan Köhler, Richard Starkey and Rachel Warren, Climatic Research Unit, 2004.

An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security,  Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall, October 2003.

Climate Change, Insecurity and Justice, Jon Barnett, September 2003.

Security differs from vulnerability in that it is a ‘power word’ that elevates problems from the level of ordinary to ‘high politics’, implying that the problem must in some way be particularly critical, and so the response must be exceptional. This judgement of criticality, and for whom, is inescapably subjective, making the meaning of security contested.

Because environmental change cannot clearly be identified as an important cause of violent conflict, nor can it be said that climate change will be a driver of violent conflict. The causes of violent conflict, particularly post Cold-War civil conflicts, are frequently complex and somewhat uncertain, but, if anything, it is resource abundance rather than scarcity that is the most important environmental issue in violent conflict generation. Judgments about the effect of climate change on violent conflict must contend not merely with this uncertainty about conflict causation, but also with uncertainty about the way climate, ecological, and social systems will interact in the future such that violent conflict is more likely than would otherwise be the case in a non-climate changed world. Because these things are unknowable, predictions of climate-induced conflict are untenable; the truth about such predictions is to be found not in an examination of the evidence they offer, but in the geopolitical and policy context in which they emerge…Barnett (2003) offers three criteria to frame and scale such a research program.

From the Environment and Human Security to Sustainable Security and Development, Sanjeev Khagram, William C. Clark, and Dana Firas Raad, Journal of Human Development 4(2): 289-313, 2003.

Security and Climate Change, Jon Barnett, Tyndall Centre Working Paper No. 7, October 2001

See also

Project coordinator: Richard Tanter
22 March 2010