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Climate Change and Security in the News - July 2010

RUSI Analysis, 5 Aug 2010

A round-up of articles relating to climate change and security in the world media for July 2010

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Climate change poses a significant challenge to the international system

Kenneth S. Yalowitz, the former US ambassador to Belarus and Georgia, and current adjunct professor of government at Dartmouth College, spoke this month at the Channel City Club in Santa Barbara, California, about the security challenges posed by the effects global climate change has on Arctic and Pacific regions.

Yalowitz argued that 'climate change is bringing new and unprecendented security risks worldwide, and is yet another challenge to our international system and its member states which are already burdened with wars, terrorism, economic recession, poverty and health concerns'.

In the Arctic, Yalowtiz argued that new economic opportunities could result in disputes over claims to shipping rights and energy resources, while in the Pacific, rising sea levels threaten many highly populated coastal areas, such as the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, and two-thirds of Bangladesh. Some low-lying islands in the Pacific are at risk of disappearing altogether.

Yalowitz admits that solutions to these issues will be difficult to find. 'Much' he said 'is going to depend on informed citizenry, demanding action by their governments and legislatures, and leaders demonstrating political will in the face of opposition. Time, however, is getting short'.

Source: Santa Barbara Independent

Climate security experts discuss the unintended security consequences of responding to climate change

In a series of videos for the New Security Beat, a number of climate security experts have been discussing the likely implications of climate change for geopolitics and international security. The videos form part of the Backdraft series which was launched in June to discuss the unintended security consequences of climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies.

In the first video of the series, Stacy VanDeever of the University of New Hampshire University argues that the environmental and security communities need to think seriously about the potentially destabilising consequences of a more carbon-restrained global economy in the 'petro states' of Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, as well as Russia.

Chad Briggs from the Berlin-based Adelphi Research, in the second video of the series, warns that military and intelligence planners need to develop their understanding of climate change in the context of uncertainty.  He says planners must be willing to look closely at risks on which there is little data, as it is these risks that could prove to be the most destabilising.

Finally, Cleo Paskal, Associate Fellow at Chatham House, expresses her view that India is playing a critical role in climate geopolitics.

All of the videos are available from the New Security Beat

Source: New Security Beat

Kerry: Climate instability poses an immediate, direct threat to national security

Writing in Foreign Policy, Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has said he will not back down on climate change. Stating that 'Washington has failed to do what everyone agrees must be done', Kerry goes on to argue that climate instability and the US' 'oil addiction' present 'immediate, direct threats to national security'.

Source: Foreign Policy

Potential for Future Water Crises in the Himalayan region

Water crises may be looming in the Hindu-Kush Himalaya area as glaciers melt, population rapidly grows, and competition over scarce water resources intensfies, according to a recent report from the Humanitarian Futures Programme at King's College, London. The report argues that climate change is already having significant impacts in the Himalayan region, intensifying natural disasters and the variability of the summer monsoon rains, and increasing the number of displaced people and government attempts to secure water supplies from its neighbours.

The report, titled The Waters of the Third Pole goes on to warn that growing scarcity could 'raise the risk of conflict in a region already fraught with corss-border tensions'. However, it also recognises that in some areas, water scarcity may actually provide an opportunity for regional cooperation rather than conflict.

Source: New Security Beat

US Chief of Naval Operations reveals concern for the seas

Admiral Gary Roughead, the US Chief of Naval Operations has warned that the melting Arctic is creating all kinds of issues as more water is freed up for fishing, shipping and mineral exploration. New territorial claims made by the US, Canada, Russia, Norway and Denmark prompted Chinese naval Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo to recently state that 'the Arctic belongs to all the people around the world as no nation has sovereignty over it...China must play an indispensable role in Arctic exploration as we have one-fifth of the world's population'.

According to Admiral Roughead, changes in the Arctic make it imperative that Congress ratifies the UN Law of the Sea Convention so that the US has a 'seat at the table'.

As the columnist for the Boston Globe observes, 'when the Navy's head of operations talks about the continental shelf, as well as how much fish is being caught by whom, and can see melting ice having a direct impact on geopolitical relations', that is all the more reason to understand that all waters have environmental and political limits, and prevent them from becoming sources of conflict.

Source: Boston Globe



Further Analysis: Climate Security, Global Security Issues

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