Climate Change and Security in the News - October 2009

A round-up of articles relating to climate change and security in the world media for October 2009 

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NATO must do more in response to climate security challenges

The Secretary-General of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen has called for NATO to do more to tackle the 'potentially huge security impacts' of climate change which include rising sea levels, drought and competition for land and resources. He was supported by NATO's newly appointed Supreme Allied Commander for Europe, Admiral James Stavridis who warned that the melting Arctic could provoke a conflict with Russia over military activity and competition for trade routes. Similar concerns for security in the Arctic have been expressed at a gathering of world maritime powers. 

The latest scientific findings, published by a team from the University of Cambridge, suggest these concerns are not unfounded as global warming could leave the Arctic Ocean ice-free during the summer within 20 years.

However, in an Op-Ed for the New York Times, Roger Howard argues that climate change in the Arctic region could ultimately have a silver lining by bringing Russia and NATO closer together. 

Coverage: AFP, IISS, Times, Guardian, National Geographic, New York Times 

New scheme to limit deforestation open to corruption 

A new UN scheme that aims to cut carbon emissions by paying poorer countries to preserve their forests has been described as a recipe for corruption.  International police, politicians and conservationists warn that the UN scheme that the climate negotiations are about to set up to transfer around $30bn dollars a year from rich countries to owners of endangered forests may be impossible to monitor and may lead to fraud. "The potential for criminality is vast" said Peter Younger, Interpol's environment crimes specialist and author of a new report for the World Bank on illegal forestry. 

Yet despite these serious reservations, the Norwegian Government (the largest contributor to the scheme) argues that there is no other choice but to go ahead with the scheme if global warming of greater than 2C is to be prevented.

Coverage: Guardian , COP15 

Regional water shortages could threaten global security

Nobel laureate and chairman of the IPCC, Rajendra K Pachauri, has warned that water scarcity as a result of climate change will create far-reaching global security concerns, impacting on both developed and developing states. Highlighting the role of the river Jordan in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, and more recent disputes in India with Pakistan over the Indus, and Bangladesh over the Ganges, Pachauri argued that water scarcity helps create 'the preconditions of desperation and discontent is undeniable' which in turn threaten security.

Coverage: Times of India

There is no 'plan B'

There is no plan B if a deal to curb greenhouse gas emissions is not reached at Copenhagen, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has announced. Speaking at a meeting of the Major Economies Forum (MEF) in London, the Prime Minister warned that that the world is on the brink of a catastrophic future of killer heat waves, floods and droughts unless governments speed up negotiations on climate change before vital talks in Copenhagen in December. The impacts of climate change could cause global GDP to be 20% lower than it otherwise would have been; the economic cost of which would be higher than the two world wars and the Great Depression combined.

Gordon Brown's speech can be viewed in full on the International Institute for Strategic Studies blog.

Coverage: Times, Guardian, Telegraph, IISS 

New CIA centre to look at climate change and national security 

At the end of last month, the CIA announced the opening of its Center on Climate Change and National Security. The centre will focus on the national security impacts of phenomena such as desertification, rising sea levels, demographic change, and increased competition for natural resources. Opponents in the US Senate attempted to block funding for the new centre, arguing that by focussing on climate change, the CIA would be distracted from the very real threat of international terrorism. However, the move led by Senator John Barrasso to amend the Defense Appropriations Bill was rejected. The centre will now go on to use intelligence to examine the effects of environmental change on the political, economic and social stability in other countries, and the implications of this for US national security.

Meanwhile, the US military and intelligence officials in the White House and the Pentagon are already factoring the implications of climate change into their estimates of where and what kind of conflicts are to be expected in the future.

Coverage:, IISS, BNET, Miller-McCune

US politicians increasingly framing climate change as a threat to national security

In the US the climate change debate is increasingly being framed around national security according to a number of commentators. Democrats, led in the climate debate by Senator John Kerry, believe that tying climate change to national security could have the persuasive force to push through a Bill to reduce greenhouse gas emissions before the Copenhagen Summit. Senator Kerry himself is seen as the key to giving weight to the national security argument, given his experience in both the global warming debate as well as his work on foreign policy and national security. 'This is a security bill that puts Americans back in charge of our energy future,' said Kerry. 'It is our country's defence against the harms of pollution and the security risks of global climate change.'

Coverage: Politico, NYTimes, Guardian 

Climate security debate gains momentum  

In this month's edition of Centrepoint, the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars (WWICS) newsletter, the cover story draws attention to how the climate security debate has been heating up over the past year. The implications of climate change are increasingly understood to threaten both the developing and developed world in a number of ways. The article includes a statement from the director of the WWICS Environmental Change Security Programme, Geoffrey Dabelko, who warns that climate-security linkages should not be overstated. However, on a more positive note Dabelko highlights how the 'increasing attention given climate change's potential security implications is a positive development'.

Coverage: WWICS 

Conflict fears growing as nations show signs of water shortage

The Times reports that Yemen is likely to be the first country to run out of water as groundwater reserves are being used up faster than they can be replenished. The severity of the water shortages is stoking civil unrest in the area and is providing a taste of the conflict and mass movement of populations that may spread across the world if population growth outstrips natural resources. 

A similar future threatens for Tajikistan where water shortages are creating regional tensions and food supply problems. Tajikistan's President, Imomali Rakhmon, warned in a speech last month, that the problem of water scarcity is particularly acute in the Central Asia where 'water is not only the basis of socio-economic development, but the most important element of national and regional security'.

Coverage: Times, Reuters 

India and China to cooperate in the fight against climate change

India has this month signed an agreement with China that will see the world's two most populous nations cooperate in the fight against climate change. The agreement comes at a time of tension between the two Asian powers over territorial disputes and water resources including India's concerns about a Chinese water diversion project that could threaten the flow of the Brahmaputra river. Jairam Ramesh, India's Environment Minister, stated that there is virtually no difference between Indian and Chinese "negotiating positions" on international climate treaties. It is a sign that 'developing nations are sticking together despite pressure from developed nations' to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions said a campaigner for Greenpeace India.

Coverage: Prokerala, Financial Times, Times of India, Guardian 

MET Office maps climate change hotspots 

A map highlighting climate change hotspots around the world was launched earlier this month by the UK Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, and his brother Ed Miliband, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary. Produced by the Met Office, the map illustrates what the world could look like if the average global temperature rises by 4C by 2060, as the Hadley Centre has predicted. Potential impacts include extreme temperatures, drought, effects on water availability, agricultural productivity, the risk of forest fire and sea level rise. 

The map is available from the websites of both the MET Office and the Department for Energy and Climate Change

Coverage: Independent, BBC News Online, Guardian

Climate change represents a bleak future US national security 

In the US, a member of the Military Advisory Board, composed of senior retired admirals and generals, has told the Senate that there is a whole host of indicators, warnings and trends that suggest climate change is bad for national security. The adviser to the Pentagon outlined how the threat posed by climate change to US security was tied closely to the country's thirst for oil. The consequences are already being felt in Afghanistan where the military is reliant on oil to fuel their vehicles, and in the future, extreme temperatures and rising sea levels could lead to widespread political and social instability. Backers of the climate bill, currently being hotly debated in Congress, hope that this bleak picture of national security will be enough to persuade reluctant Republicans of the need to act on carbon dioxide emissions.

Coverage: Guardian, Associated Press

Veterans bus tours America to warn of climate threat 

Operation Free, a coalition of national security and veterans organizations, this month sent out a group of Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans on a 21-state biodiesel-fuelled bus tour to promote the message that climate change could threaten US national security. The purpose is to raise public awareness about climate change and the importance of building a clean energy economy that is not tied to fossil fuels.

Coverage: Operation Free, Washington Post


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