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Climate Change and Security in the News - April 2010

Commentary, 29 April 2010
Global Security Issues
A round-up of news and analysis relating to climate change and security in the world media for April 2010.

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

climate asia

Climate change demands a new approach to geopolitics

In a speech delivered to the Woodrow Wilson Center, World Bank President Robert Zoellick stated that the world must avoid 'geopolitics as usual' in response to climate change. He went on to add: 'we need to move away from the binary choice of either power or environment...Climate change policy can be linked to development and win support from developing countries for low carbon growth -- but not if it is imposed as a straitjacket'.

Coverage: New Security Beat, Reuters

The climate change 'variable'

Writing in Defense News, UK Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti and Amanda Dory from the US Department of Defense argue that climate change has emerged as a new 'variable' in assessing threats to global security. Both believe that the US and UK militaries have an important role to play in fostering efforts to assess, adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change. This is likely to involve partnering with other government agencies in environmental security initiatives; assessing the risk to military installations; improving energy efficiency of bases and operating forces; and developing innovative energy technology.

While they recognise current military operations remain the highest priority, Morisetti and Dory go on to call for the military to take responsibility for assessing the future security environment, including the impacts of climate change. 

The full article is available here.

Coverage: Defense News

India-Pakistan water sharing agreement under threat

Observers are warning that climate change may contribute to renewed tension between India and Pakistan over a trans-boundary water sharing agreement that has already withstood two wars and various periods of unease since it was signed in 1960. The two countries currently share the 190 billion cubic meters of Himalayan snowmelt that courses through the Indus each year.

However, experts predict that climate change could alter the timing and rate of snowmelt, potentially provoking a conflict between the two nations as they compete to meet their water needs. As India continues to develop dams along the upper reaches of the Indus, questions are likely to be raised in Pakistan about whether the declining availability of water is due to climate change or to India's reservoirs.

An Action Aid report has also warned that the melting of Kashmiri glaciers could trigger massive food security problems in the near future.

Coverage: Reuters, Kashmir Watch, ActionAid

US military leads on climate change

According to a recent report produced by Pew Charitable Trusts the US military is leading the fight against climate change by investing in the 'Great Green Fleet' and other ways of cutting dependence on oil and coal.

The report, 'Re-energizing America's Defense', says the military anticipates that climate change may lead to domestic and international instability by threatening water and food supplies. Furthermore, a greater potential for natural disasters could increase the need for humanitarian missions, both at home and abroad, potentially overstretching resources. Phyllis Cuttino, director of the Pew Environment Group's Global Warming Campaign hopes that the military will inspire others to invest in greener technology: 'if the military is doing it, maybe the American people will think it's not so scary'.

The full report is available here.

Coverage: Reuters, ISN

China in the Arctic

In a three-part article for China Dialogue, Linda Jakobsen - Director of SIPRI's China and Global Security Programme - argues that Chinese officials are thinking about what kind of policies would help China benefit from an ice-free Arctic environment. Despite the country's seemingly weak position, Jakobsen anticipates that China will seek a role in determining the political framework and legal foundation for future Arctic activities. The opening up of the Arctic will also provide access to new reserves of energy and other natural resources on which China's economic growth is increasingly reliant.

Jakobsen goes on to highlight a major step necessary to enhance China's understanding of the political, legal and military dimensions of the Arctic. In September 2007, the Chinese government launched a project entitled 'Arctic Issues Research', which involved scholars and officials from around China and included such research topics as 'Arctic resources and their exploitation', 'Arctic scientific research', 'Arctic transportation', 'Arctic law' and 'military factors in the Arctic'. The research project was completed in 2009, but the reports were not made public.

Read all three parts of the report: Part One, Part Two, Part Three

Coverage: China Dialogue

Climate deal unlikely in 2010

Earlier this month UN climate talks resumed in Bonn in an attempt to rebuild relationships after the disappointments expressed in the aftermath of the Copenhagen Summit at the end of last year. The negotiations were immediately complicated as the US and China clashed about how the talks should be revived. While the US called for 2010 talks to build on the non-binding Copenhagen Accord for limiting greenhouse gas emissions, China insisted that talks should be guided by other draft UN texts that have been circulating since the UNFCCC summit in Bali in 2007.

Despite a consensus being reached on holding two extra meetings in the run up to the next UNFCCC summit in Cancun the executive secretary of the UNFCCC, Yvo de Boer, said: 'I think that Cancun can agree an operational architecture but turning that into a treaty, if that is the decision, will take more time beyond Mexico', and predicted 'many more rounds' of talks to reach an ultimate solution. The Copenhagen Accord continues to face opposition from a number of developing nation and its fate remains uncertain.

The BASIC group of advanced developing nations has since met in Cape Town, and called for a legally binding global agreement to limit climate change to be completed by 2011 at the latest.

Meanwhile, the Major Economies Forum will try to advance climate negotiations in Washington, increasing speculation that states are turning away from the UNFCCC in order to address climate change.

Coverage: Reuters, Guardian, Telegraph

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