Climate Change and Security in the News - March 2010


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


climate asia

UK-US defence departments agree on climate change threats

After his latest visit to Washington, Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti decleared that the UK fully supports recent US defence department actions on climate change.

Writing for the Woodrow Wilson International Centre's 'New Security Beat', Morisetti said: 'I am struck by how similar UK and U.S. thinking is on the national security implications of climate change. Our defense departments agree that the impact of climate change is likely to be most severe in areas where it coincides with other stresses, such as poverty, demographic growth, and resource shortages: areas through which much of the world's trade already passes'.

Morisetti believes that the US and UK can 'work together' to establish a greater understanding of the security implications of climate change and how they will affect future missions and tasks. He was writing in the wake of a Department of Defense panel discussion titled 'Climate Change and Energy in Defense Doctrine: The QDR and UK Defence Green Paper'.

Coverage: New Security Beat

'Clean nations set to rule politically'

European Climate Change Commissioner Connie Hedegaard has called for the US to act now to address climate change, predicting that in the future the most energy efficient nations will also rule politically. Her warning comes in the wake of news that China, South Korea, Brazil and India are moving very quickly in the direction of low carbon growth.

The Commissioner asked the US to help Europe revive efforts to forge an international climate deal or risk handing the initiative to rapidly developing countries, adding that it is 'crucial' for Washington to send a signal to developing economies of its commitment and willingness to act on climate change.

Coverage: AHN, Washington Times

Arctic presents long-term challenges to the US Navy

Global climate change could turn the Arctic into a new military frontier, but it is unlikely to become a new 'Wild West' according to a recent piece in the New York Times. Contrary to reports of an Arctic 'free-for-all', challenges are likely to be 'complex, long-term and tinged with uncertainty'. Richard Engel, who leads the National Intelligence Council's climate change programme, argues that economic and commercial interests will temper the pace of development in the region, limiting the potential for conflict.

The greatest threat to continued stability comes from the uncertainty associated with climate change. Jay Gulledge, senior scientist at the Pew Centre has argued that the security implications of climate change are ultimately about risk, and how that risk is managed.

Coverage: NY Times

Russia: climate change is a security threat

A representative of Russia's National Security Council has confirmed that the Council believes climate change in the Arctic will pose a significant threat to national security. Melting permafrost in the next 10-15 years threatens thousands of kilometres of pipelines, railways, roads and a number of large towns. Permafrost covers two-thirds of Russian land territories and the changing climate could destabilise all building and engineering facilities in the area.

According to the Council official, these developments will affect national security, but there are more immediate challenges to the north and to the south of the country. In the Arctic, the Council believes that global warming could trigger inter-state conflict over resources and access to shipping routes. Meanwhile to the south, the Council is concerned that water and food shortages, exacerbated by climate change, could also cause inter-state conflicts into which Russia might be drawn. In response, the Council is to draw up a programme of 'climate assistance' to support its regional partners.

Coverage: Barents Observer, Georgian Daily, American Security Project


Russia to defend claim to Arctic resources

President Dmitry Medvedev has called for Russia to defend its claims to the mineral riches of the Arctic in light of increasing competition with other powers. Medvedev warned that attempts have been made to limit Russia's access to the Arctic but did not name specific nations. The President has asked the National Security Council to propose ways for Russia to cooperate with its Arctic neighbours in a manner that makes them internationally competitive.

Coverage: AP, Voice of Russia

China's growing interest in the Arctic

A new report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute argues that China is increasingly interested in the strategic implications of melting ice in the Arctic, with a view to pursuing a more active role in the region. The report indicates that the Arctic could emerge as another area in which China starts defining global interests, following its increasing investments in Africa and moves to build a presence in the Indian Ocean. The melting ice could have dramatic benefits for China's economic interests; using an ice-free northern route would reduce the shipping distance between Shanghai and Hamburg by 6,400km. According to the author of the report, Linda Jakobson, China has underplayed its growing interest in the region for fear of causing alarm among the Arctic states about China's global ambitions.

Yet China clearly believes it has legitimate interests in the region. The report quotes one of China's top Arctic experts as saying: 'Circumpolar nations have to understand that Arctic affairs are not only regional issues, but international ones'.

Coverage: FT, Arctic Focus 

Maldives call for reframing of climate change debate

The President of the Maldives has called for the climate change debate to be reframed in economic and security terms ahead of the next United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) summit in Mexico, which will seek to build on the political agreement reached in Copenhagen. At a climate change seminar in Helsinki, President Mohamed Nasheed argued that climate change is not just about 'hugging trees' - it is 'central to future security policies, sustainable economics and human rights'.

Coverage: AFP

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