“I want you to panic”. This was the message that 16 year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg gave to the World Economic Forum in Davos on 25 January, and in it she struck right to the intergenerational justice issue at the heart of the sustainability project.
Although COP24 more or less delivered the rules the international community needs to go ahead and implement the ambitious climate action foreseen in the Paris Agreement, there has been disappointment and frustration about the overall dynamic of the climate negotiation process. This young activist’s call to focus 2020’s forum of the self-proclaimed world economic elite on the climate and environment crisis is therefore more than appropriate.
Even more so since – exactly at the same time as Greta was presenting her personal risk assessment in Davos – the United Nations Security Council was again debating how climate change is a threat to peace and security. The debate on 25 January in New York was welcomed by almost all of the 80 plus countries that participated with a statement. There was a broad consensus that climate change poses serious threats, so it is now on the Security Council to engage more systematically on this issue. Calls for improvements to early warning systems and more widespread use of integrated climate risk assessments featured prominently during the debate, despite their often technical nature. More pronounced calls for action (or reasons for more “panic” if you will) came with the reflections in other Security Council debates that climate change impacts are contributing to the violent conflicts in the Lake Chad Basin, Somalia, Mali and Darfur. These examples can serve to increase our understanding of the complex interrelationship between climate change and conflict, as they illustrate how climate change serves as a crisis multiplier.
Panic is not necessarily the best emotion to advise us as we seek to design and implement solutions to the climate crisis – but it may be the one we need to ensure that 2020 is a major turning point towards cross-sectoral transformative change.
The severity of desertification and its mutual relationship with climate change cannot be overstated. In light of the recent launch of the Special Report on Climate Change and Land by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Robert McSweeney from Carbon Brief explains what desertification is, what role climate change plays, and what impact it has across the world.
A new form of organized crime has recently been emerging in the Amazon: illegal mining. Miners fell trees, use high-grade explosives to oblast soils and dredge riverbeds. But the impacts go beyond environmental damages, bringing with it a slew of other social problems. Peace researcher Adriana Abdenur urges policymakers to improve coordination and argues that diplomacy may help prevent further conflicts, corruption and crime.
To fight illegal coca plantations and conflict actors’ income sources, Colombia’s president wants to loosen the ban on aerial glyphosate spraying. However, considering the dynamics of organised crime, the use of toxic herbicides will not only fail to achieve its aim, it will have many adverse effects for the environment and human health, fundamentally undermining ways to reach peace in the country. International cooperation and national policy-makers need to account for this peace spoiler.
As India grapples with the worsening impacts of climate change, the need to strengthen its adaptation efforts has become more significant than ever. Climate diplomacy and mainstreaming climate adaptation into the most vulnerable sectors could provide some solutions to overcoming barriers, such as the lack of sustainable funding.