Climate Change and Security News – September 2010

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

'Mutual trust' needed in the Arctic

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said the future of the Arctic must be resolved by 'our willingness to look together for responses to joint challenges'. Putin was speaking at an international Arctic conference hosted by the Russian Geographical Society, just days after Russia settled a 40-year dispute with Norway over the two countries' shared boundary in the Barents Sea. However, major boundary decisions are still prevalent, most notably in the contested area of the Lomonosov Ridge which is claimed by Canada, Denmark and Russia.

Interest in the Arctic has grown in recent years as the impacts of climate change on the region have become clearer. The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the global average and the melting ice is opening up new opportunities for economic development. However, as Steven Bigras, executive director of the Canadian Polar Commission, points out, 'doing so will require co-operation, not confrontation' between interested parties. 

Source: NY Times


Shifting patterns of rainfall pose major threat 

Increasingly unpredictable patterns of rainfall, related to climate change, pose a major threat to food security and economic growth, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) warns. Researchers at the Institute have found that Africa and Asia were most likely to be the worst affected and have called for greater investment in water storage and diversifying supply systems. Up to 499 million people in Africa and India could benefit from improved agricultural water management alone. Experts are concerned about the tendency to over-rely on single solutions to water insecurity, for example by building large dams, and say that an integrated approach employing both large and small-scale storage mechanisms would be a more effective strategy.

Source: Reuters


Bread riots in Mozambique

Recent bread riots in Mozambique may be a warning of events to come if African food security is not addressed, the Christian Science Monitor contends. In July, August and September, wheat prices soared as a result of a heat wave in Russia which led to the cancellation of all Russian wheat exports and a series of other environment-related disasters in other parts of the world. Following on from this, bread prices rose 30% in Mozambique, sparking riots and further demonstrating the fragility of global food markets while giving governments 'a much needed wake-up call' about how quickly the markets can turn as a result of environment-related crises.

Source: Christian Science Monitor, CNN


Unique Naval exercises to prepare for environment-related disasters

Michael Baker, writing for the Council on Foreign Relations, discusses the long-term effects of recent flooding in Pakistan for US national security and the war in Afghanistan. He argues that the environmental disaster in Pakistan offers an example of how natural disasters can weigh on US national security considerations - to the point where the US Navy recently conducted  scenario exercises where the Navy might have to support US or international relief efforts to help maintain regional and global stability. As Baker explains, the exercises at the were unique in that they brought together climate scientists, water experts, health practitioners, logisticians, diplomats, aid workers and military officers to think through possible response options, thus utilising a broader toolset for addressing matters of national security.

Source: Council on Foreign Relations


Defence experts warn Congress about 'creeping vulnerabilities'

Defence experts have told Congress that environmental degradation and the growing scarcity of natural resources threaten US security in the twenty-first century, in a shift from 'kinetic' security threats. The experts warned that the loss of natural resources (e.g. forests, fresh water, fish and fertile soils) could drive political instability and conflict in the developing world. In contrast to the way more 'traditional' security challenges are managed, retired General Anthony Zinni, former chief of US Central Command, admits: 'We can't just send in the Army and the Marines and the Air Force and the Navy to resolve these problems.'

Lieutenant Colonel Shannon Beebe, a senior Army Africa analyst, went on to explain that 'an American security narrative is very much based on kinetics...planes, tanks, guns, armed forces', but these kinetic threats are being replaced by 'creeping vulnerabilities'.

Source: Reuters


Future military operations should be run on renewable energy

In a recent tour of Canada, the UK's Climate and Energy Security Envoy, Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti has said future military operations should be run on renewable energy in order to protect the environment as well as national interests. However, reducing the military's addiction to fossil fuels is not just about the environment - it has practical benefits for logistics as well as it will help the military to overcome the difficulties associated with providing supplies and fuel to frontline forces. 'Logistics has always been the military's Achilles heel' said Morisetti, 'in that sense it's a win-win'.

Source: Vancouver Sun


UK Foreign Secretary describes climate change as one of the biggest foreign policy challenges of the twenty-first century

In a recent speech delivered to the Council on Foreign Relations titled 'The Diplomacy of Climate Change', the UK's Foreign Secretary, William Hague, described climate change as 'perhaps the twenty-first century's biggest foreign policy challenge' and argued that 'an effective response to climate change underpins our security and prosperity'.

The full speech is available from the FCO

Source: FCO

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