Climate Change and Security in the News - August 2010
RUSI Analysis, 30 Aug 2010
A round-up of articles relating to climate change and security in the world media for August 2010
Bonn Climate Talks
August began with the Bonn climate change talks of the Ad-hoc Working Groups, tasked with developing solutions to climate change. Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, concluded that the Bali Action Plan is achievable in Cancun later this year. The plan ensures the development of effective mitigation and adaptation strategies, a clear global emissions reductions target, financing mechanisms and technological transfer. She warned however, that 'governments must radically narrow down the choices on the table' if meaningful decisions are to be made in Mexico.
Is Climate Change Causing Extreme Weather Events and Insecurity?
This month, media sources have discussed the widespread flooding in Pakistan, the heatwaves and wildfires in Russia, and the breakup of a giant Greenland iceberg in the context of climate change. For instance, The Economist labelled the heatwaves in Russia as 'connected' to the flooding in Pakistan, due to a change in the circulation of air in the upper atmosphere. The Sydney Morning Herald also suggested that these phenomena are indicative of a wider trend towards more extreme weather and disasters, while Russian President Medvedev explained that, given the severity of the recent drought and fires, 'everyone is talking about climate change now.'
Coverage: The Economist, Sydney Morning Herald, The Kremlin
Geopolitics of the Hothouse
Other analysts argue that as the effects of climate change are felt, such as in Pakistan with the recent floods, rich countries should be forced to pay for the damage, in line with the 'polluter pays' principle. In an article for Dawn magazine, Ardeshir Cowasjee questions - in the context of climate change as a threat multiplier - whether polluters should start to pay proportionately more for human security in those countries that are at risk from climate change. Cowasjee suggests international actors should be prepared to provide security in the face of the environmental disasters that they have helped create.
In an opinion piece for the LA Times, ex-Foreign Minister of Mexico, Jorge G. Castañeda, argues that the increasing role of the new economies such as China, Brazil and India, stands to weaken the global governance system's efficacy in tackling pressing problems. The argument suggests that expanding the G8 or UN Security Council will effectively obstruct progress on dealing with climate change. This is because these states are not committed to the level of environmental protection required to deal with climate change. Castañeda criticises the view that these countries represent the third world, or that a governance architecture that includes the extra players would necessarily be any fairer.
Coverage: Dawn, LA Times
Food Security Under Threat in Bangladesh
Earthscan's new publication, Climate Change Risks and Food Security in Bangladesh, describes a decrease in the number of seasons, threats from sea level rise, and increased glacial melt water flowing through Bangladesh from the Himalayas. This threatens food security in Bangladesh. The focus here is on the possibilities to adapt in the face of these threats, including a discussion on food security that goes beyond simple measures of total food production.
This report on Bangladesh comes as MP Saber Hossain Chowdhury, a leading member of the Bangladeshi Parliament, labels climate change 'our biggest security challenge'. In an interview with the East West Institute, Chowdhury identified threats around rising sea level, meltwater from Himalayan glaciers (leading to flooding in the medium term and water shortages when the glaciers have melted) and extreme weather events. Chowdhury also cites migration as a potential challenge, as people move away from flood prone areas. Combined, these factors threaten the national security of Bangladesh.
Coverage: East West Institute
Climate Change and Foreign Policy in Canada
The Canadian based International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) has published a comprehensive report on the need for a clear foreign policy in the face of climate change. It calls for a national dialogue on issues around emissions negotiations, energy security and Canadian sovereignty over the Arctic. The report also suggests that Canada should encourage international security through development and adaptation in both the Arctic and developing regions. In particular, a bilateral approach is recommended to enable funding, build adaptation capacity, and establish institutional support and technology transfer for those states that are most vulnerable to climate induced insecurity.
Coverage: International Institute for Sustainable Development
Further Analysis: Climate Security, Global Security Issues