Climate change resulting from the emission of greenhouse gases represents one of the vital challenges of international environmental policy. Flooding, droughts, a shift of climate zones, and the increasingly frequent and intense extreme weather hazards will have serious economic and social consequences for entire regions. These extreme weather events already today cause enormous damages:
Floods are the most frequent of all natural hazards. They also cause the greatest economic loss and claim the most lives. More than 1,100 floods occurred worldwide between 1994 and 2003, with Asia being the worst affected continent. A continuing rise in sea level, changes in rainfall, or more frequent storms as a result of global warming will further exacerbate the social and economic impacts of floods.
In contrast to the gradual process of desertification, droughts are disasters that occur suddenly because of a prolonged absence of rainfall. There have been more than 500 incidences of drought worldwide since 1993, often accompanied by considerable crop losses. If an affected region does not have sufficient food reserves and no relief efforts are forthcoming, a drought can result in catastrophic famines.
Storms take many different forms according to region. They may occur as tornadoes, winter storms or tropical cyclones. With wind speeds of up to 400 km/h, storms can develop incredibly destructive force and leave devastation in their wake. There were 800 storms between 1994 and 2003, the majority in the Americas and Asia.
As a result, soil erosion, desertification or increased water shortage can lead to a further deterioration of living conditions, an escalation of social and political tensions, or even conflicts as well as the significant increase of environmental refugees. In return, these factors may have corresponding consequences for already existing regional conflict situations. Thus, international climate policy also maintains a crisis preventative function that has, however, not been widely implemented.
The climate problem is directly linked to the question of future energy generation. This link exists not only because the majority of greenhouse gases result from burning fossil fuels, but also because these fuels are limited and their availability - especially in the future - will be significantly limited to politically unstable regions. Energy supply security and the prevention of conflicts over distribution thus present a political challenge that will continue to increase due to the tremendous and growing demand. So far, only rudimentary approaches exist for shaping climate and energy security in a sustainable way, while at the same time their interconnectedness is insufficiently recognized. The components of a strategy that can contribute to reducing vulnerabilities related to climate and energy policy include a greater role of renewable energies, the improvement of energy efficiency in different sectors, or a stronger decentralization of energy supply.