The world is currently in the process of undisputed climate change, a fact that has recently been reaffirmed by the findings of the fourth report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. While scientific insights on the process are becoming clearer, how to it will impact upon global security remains decidedly unclear. The Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI) launched its programme to research the links between climate change and security with an inaugural conference on the 24th January 2007.
Speakers included experts from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Met Office, Shell UK Limited, the Universities of Oxford, Kent and Bradford, and Al Gore's "The Climate Project". Discussions covered a range of topics including the additional pressures that climate change places upon regions where there are scarcities of fundamental resources, the scientific basis for climate change, and industry responses to the situation. Furthermore, scenarios were examined as to how climatic patterns could lead to mass migration and dangerous security situations in South Asia. The key message of the conference was that without planning now, climate change will impact upon the security of both nations and individuals in a potentially catastrophic manner.
In his keynote address to open the conference, John Ashton, UK Foreign Secretary’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, likened the security challenge of climate change to those faced during the Cold War: "The last time the world shared a dilemma this complex, a challenge this difficult, this far reaching was the Cold War. I would suggest that the stakes this time are just as high if not higher. This time if we do nothing the threat just keeps getting worse, there is a 'ticking clock' in the background."
Speakers such as Sir Crispin Tickell, the former UK Permanent Representative to the UN and Professor Paul Rogers highlighted how the effects of climate change would have negative security implications and how they could also put further strain on existing political and social tensions leading to conflict. The examples of Darfur and Rwanda were used as examples of this process. The disproportionate impact of climate change on the poorest regions of the world featured highly in discussions.
The potential for political and international institutional responses were examined, and it was stressed that due to globalisation and the interdependence between states there was a requirement for a multilateral response to climate change. Those strategies that were based upon narrow state-centric views could ultimately be self-defeating in policy making in this area.
The conference concluded that a fundamental security objective for the next century should be to reinforce the four mutually connected 'pillars' of security, climate security, water security, food security and energy security. "Climate Security is the one element without which the other three will not continue to stand. [..] Climate change is not a security issue because it gives rise to theoretical security risks, it is a security issue because unless we deal with it people will die on a very large scale, hundreds of millions of people, states will fail that wouldn't otherwise fail." concluded John Ashton. (by Tobias Feakin, RUSI)
For more information, please see http://www.rusi.org
Published in: ECC-Newsletter, Februar 2007