Climate change acts as a multiplier

What is the security dimension of climate change? Experts were invited by the European Parliament a few days ago and had the opportunity to express some ideas and recommendations. All of them used the same expression: climate change acts as a multiplier.

Even if there is no simple causal link between climate change and security fragility, climate change converges with other pressures and shocks and increases the risks to the stability of states and societies. According to Lukas Rüttinger, Senior Project Manager at Adelphi Research, climate change can affect local resources and increases food prices, which can lead to street protests. Scarcity of resources such as water, land and forests can increase violent conflict. Climate change reaches rich and poor societies but the damages and consequences are not the same as the hurricanes in Central America or Caribbean demonstrate.

Tor A. Benjaminsen, Professor at Norwegian University of Life Sciences, International Environment and Development Studies gave a concrete example of the link between climate change and security risks: the civil war in Syria. Between 2006 and 2011 half of the country had suffered under the worst drought on record. This drought was more intense and lasted longer than usual. Thus, nearly one million rural villagers lost their farms and moved to cities. The State did not manage this new population and could not stop this new pressure. However, Joshua Goldstein [1] provides nuance on it. Refugee populations are frequently the effect but seldom the cause of armed conflicts and the resource scarcity may stimulate international operations.

It is also worth noting that climate change does not create terrorists but it contributes to an environment in which the terrorists or criminals can thrive: they can operate more freely and livelihood insecurity can make population more vulnerable to recruitment. Therefore, it is necessary to build more resilience against climate fragility and to be more focused on prevention with risks mitigation and assessment. Climate issues must also be incorporated earlier in policies with integrated financing streams. One of the conclusions of the Planetary Security initiative’s report focused on water scarcity [2] is that participation of local communities in policy developments could be important for reducing security and conflict risks. It also recommends building a reflexive process focusing on security issues with an involvement of scientific domains, military and security domains, and non-governmental organisations.

Finally, it is necessary to move beyond the greening military operations and experts recommend having a broader strategic thinking and a better understanding of how climate change could alter the broader contours of defence policy. Policy makers have to incorporate climate planning into defence and strategic planning in particular requirements and early warning systems.

[1] Joshua Goldstein (2016) Climate change as a global security issue, Journal of Global Security Studies [retour au texte]

[2] Planetary security initiative (April 2017), Water, climate and conflict : security risks on the increase ? [retour au texte]

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