Climate Change and Security in the News - November 2009
RUSI News, 5 Nov 2009
A round-up of articles relating to climate change and security in the world media for November 2009
Climate-induced conflicts in Africa
A team of US researchers have argued that conflict in Africa is 50 per cent more likely in 'unusually warm' years. Published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the team argue that tensions increase when food supplies run short in warm conditions. They suggest climatic factors could potentially have been a source of recent conflicts across the continent, and that future climate change will only worsen the situation if left unchecked. Having provided what some say is the first hard evidence of a link between climate change and conflict, the researchers now intend to look at what interventions will make climate-induced conflict less likely.
Meanwhile, Dr J Peter Pham, a columnist for World Defense Review, has described the African Union's decision to send a unified delegation empowered to negotiate on behalf of all member states in upcoming international negotiations on climate change as 'nothing short of historic' given the threat climate change poses to the continent's security.
Coverage: BBC News Online, Scientific American, Telegraph, World Defense Review
NATO preparing for catastrophic climate change
Admiral Luciano Zappata, deputy supreme allied commander for NATO, has told an audience at New York University that NATO is preparing for catastrophic climatic events such as storms, flooding and drought with an 'elaborate and well functioning system of civil emergency planning that spans more than 40 countries'.
Admiral Zappata went on to argue that longer-term climatic changes will have 'humanitarian, economic, cultural and political implications that can result in ethnic and religious conflicts after large scale migrations; in tensions arising over access to vital resources, especially water, gas and oil; and in geopolitical and economic shifts when, for example, ice melting yields access to new trading routes and potential new resources'.
Coverage: American Chronicle
Climate change to drive greater migration within Europe
Professor John Beddington, the government's chief scientific adviser, has warned that climate change could destabilise populations across Europe, forcing millions of people to migrate northwards into cooler regions such as the British Isles and Scandinavia. Without action to curb emissions, average temperatures are predicted to rise 6°C by 2060, destroying agriculture and turning much of southern Europe into desert. Professor Beddington has set up a panel of scientists to examine the issue. The Global Environmental Migration project will report late next year.
At war with climate change
The Institution of Mechanical Engineers has declared that the UK government's climate change targets are 'physically impossible to achieve' because there is not enough time to build new nuclear power stations and develop other sources of renewable energy. Instead the institute is calling for greater investment in geo-engineering and a declaration of 'war' on climate change. Dr Tim Fox, head of environment and climate change at the Institution, declared 'it's time to go to war on climate change. It is attacking us and we must fight back'.
According to the institution's research, only with such a 'war' mentality, which could, for example, see the introduction of individual carbon rationing, would Britain be able to take the urgent steps necessary for preventing catastrophic climate change.
Coverage: BBC News, Telegraph
UK paves way for new nuclear power stations to be built
The Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Miliband, earlier this month unveiled plans for the construction of a new fleet of nuclear power stations, 'clean coal' power stations and wind farms. The UK government wants to move away from the use of high-carbon fossil fuels through the development of alternative energy infrastructure to stave off dangerous climate change. Miliband will be hoping that the new stations are constructed quickly enough to help to meet Britain's 2050 target of reducing carbon emissions by 80 per cent.
According to the Washington Post, the British plan underscores how 'nations around the world are scrambling to find ways to generate more energy while slashing the emissions that cause climate change'. Earlier this year, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) produced a report which raised concerns that worldwide nuclear proliferation could increase the chances of terrorist groups one day getting their hands on nuclear materials. RUSI's Dr Ian Kearns, Deputy Commissioner of the IPPR's security commission at the time, warned: 'A global nuclear renaissance, if badly managed, could bring enormous complications in terms of nuclear non-proliferation and terrorism'.
Coverage: Guardian, Times, Washington Post
Major Asian cities under threat from climate change
A new report published by WWF China calls for massive investment and careful planning to ease the impact of climate change on the Yangtze delta. The report warns that climate change over the next 50 years could inflict more potentially disastrous weather on the affluent area threatening food security and biodiversity. According to the director general of WWF International, 'the report is an important symbol of China's commitment to fighting climate change'.
The Yangtze delta is not the only area in Asia threatened by climate change. The WWF expects climate change to affect everything from national security to water availability in megacities across Asia. Low-lying and impoverished Asian coastal cities such as Dhaka, Manila and Jakarta will be increasingly vulnerable if global greenhouse gas emissions are not brought under control.
Coverage: Guardian, China Daily, Independent
Earlier this month, political leaders, senior figures and negotiators were accused of myopia over attempts to secure a climate deal at the upcoming conference in Copenhagen. Failure to make progress in the final round of pre-Copenhagen talks in Barcelona and at a meeting of world leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Singapore, added weight to these concerns. This led the UK government to admit there was no hope of reaching a binding agreement on climate change. The UN Chief and the President of the European Commission echoed this view in statements of their own.
However, as the conference gets closer, there are signs that three of the world's biggest emitters are prepared to take significant steps towards finding an agreement. Following on from the US' decision to embrace a Danish proposal to at least seal an interim international climate agreement in Copenhagen, the US and China have for the first time announced the setting of national targets which will help the world combat climate change. The two states have agreed that a comprehensive global deal is needed in Copenhagen next month, not just a political statement.
A new 'green partnership' has also been announced between US and India to help produce a strong political deal at next month's summit in Copenhagen, with a binding agreement to follow sometime next year. It is hoped that India will follow the lead of the US and China and announce its own emissions targets soon.
Coverage: Guardian, Xinhua, Times, Financial Times, BBC News Online, Independent, Green Leap Forward
Gorbachev: There are urgent parallels between the fall of Communism and the fight to stop climate change
The former President of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, has argued that there are urgent parallels between the fall of Communism and the fight to stop climate change. In an article for the Times published on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Gorbachev wrote, 'the climate crisis is the new wall that divides us from our future, and today's leaders are vastly underestimating the urgency, and potentially catastrophic scale, of the emergency'.
He went on to add: 'Like 20 years ago, we face a threat to global security and our very future existence that no one nation can deal with alone'. Gorbachev believes that a 'paradigm shift' of the scale required to end the Cold War is needed if catastrophic climate change is to be prevented.
Further Analysis: Climate Security, Global Security Issues