Defence establishments around the world increasingly see climate change as posing potentially serious threats to national and international security, according to a review of high-level statements by the world’s governments released here Thursday.
The review, “The Global Security Defense Index on Climate Change: Preliminary Results,” found that nearly three out of four governments for which relevant information is available view the possible effects of climate change as a serious national security issue.
In many nations, the armed forces are the most respected arm of government, and their action on climate change can raise awareness throughout the country.
It found that the wealthy developed countries of North America, Europe and East Asia, including China, have made the most progress in integrating climate change into their national security strategies.
With the notable exception of India, leaders of South Asian countries have also made strong statements about the security threats posed by climate change, while smaller countries in the Pacific, the Caribbean, and Central America have expressed alarm at the possible catastrophic impacts of climate change on them, according to the review.
It was officially released at the this week’s Climate Security Conference in the Asia-Pacific Region in Seoul, South Korea by the American Security Project (ASP), a non-partisan group headed by former senior U.S. government and military officials.
The Index, which will go online later this spring and be constantly updated, will catalogue official documents and statements by national governments – and particularly their military establishments — about the relationship between climate change and security issues.
“In many nations, the armed forces are the most respected arm of government, and their action on climate change can raise awareness throughout the country,” according to ASP’s Andrew Holland, who co-authored the report with Xander Vagg.
The review’s release comes amidst growing frustration among both climate scientists and activists over the slow pace and weakness of multilateral and unilateral efforts to curb the emission of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
Governments’ failure to take stronger action has been attributed in part to the fact that climate change has been seen primarily as an environmental issue. As such, it has been accorded a lower priority than other challenges faced by countries, particularly economic growth.
In recent years, however, governments in a growing number of countries have recognised climate change as a national security issue – a recognition welcomed by activists who believe it should bolster their efforts to push the issue up the national and international agenda.
Here in the U.S., such an effort has been underway for some time. Just last month, a bipartisan group of 38 former senior and cabinet-level U.S. foreign policy officials, military officers, and lawmakers published an “open letter” to President Barack Obama and Congress calling for urgent action, especially in funding programmes designed to help poor countries both curb emissions and adapt to climate change.
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Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan are currently engaged in vital talks over the dispute relating to the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Nile River. While non-African actors are increasingly present in the negotiations, the African Union (AU) is playing a marginal role.
Climate change was more central than ever at this year’s Munich Security Conference (MSC), the leading international forum for senior military, security and foreign policy leaders. The release of the inaugural “World Climate and Security Report 2020” (WCSR 2020) by the Expert Group of the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS) should help policymakers take effective action.
The mission of the Munich Security Conference is to “address the world’s most pressing security concerns”. These days, that means climate security: climate change is the ultimate threat multiplier, and anyone discussing food security, political instability, migration, or competition over resources should be aware of the climate change pressures that are so often at the root of security problems.
The European Green Deal has made the environment and climate change the focus of EU action. Indeed, climate change impacts are already increasing the pressure on states and societies; however, it is not yet clear how the EU can engage on climate security and environmental peacemaking. In this light, and in the run-up to the German EU Council Presidency, adelphi and its partners are organising a roundtable series on “Climate, environment, peace: Priorities for EU external action in the decade ahead”.