Climate Security Research Project: Mexico and Central America Visit

Dr Tobias Feakin and Shiloh Fetzek’s visit to Mexico and Central America marks the launch of a project to investigate the impact of climate change on security and stability in the region. As the effects of the changing climate become increasingly apparent, Mesoamerican governments join RUSI in discussions on the arising security implications.

RUSI’s Central America Climate Security Research Project examines the potential social and political impacts of climate change on Mexico and Central America and its implications for security and stability in the region. Research will consider how climate change could exacerbate current regional security issues, such as unregulated population movements and serious organised crime, as well as the potential development of new security risks.

In June 2009, researchers from RUSI’s Climate Change and Security Programme travelled to Central America to engage in a series of discussions with officials about the impact of climate change on security in the region. On 10 June, Dr Tobias Feakin and Shiloh Fetzek launched the project at the Mexican Senate alongside British Ambassador to Mexico, Giles Paxman, before holding discussions with various policy makers, including some of President Felipe Calderón’s national security advisors. The following week they led a coordinating meeting between project partners in El Salvador. As the effects of climate change become increasingly apparent, regional governments are welcoming the initiative.

The effects of climate change could have a significant impact on the security of the region. The increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events have been seen to impact social unrest and government capabilities. These events prompt an increase in demand for disaster response capability which could be overstretched, particularly in an environment of economic contraction and reduced government financial flows. Additionally, changes in rainfall patterns and temperature will affect access to water resources. Research will need to assess strategies to handle this change in access, based on what is already understand about capacity for local water management systems to handle disputes non-violently. Even if dealt with non-violently, increased pressure and competition for resources could lead to fluctuations in current migration patterns in Mesoamerica. Increased flows of migrants could create new security concerns as well as affecting the already contentious international relations issue in the region.

The project is a collaboration between partners from the Fundacion Ecologica (FUNDAECO – Foundation for Eco-development and Conservation) in Guatemala, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre in Belize and the Central American Commission for Environment and Development (CCAD) in El Salvador. The coalition also includes various partners from government and civil society in Mexico, such as the National Institute for Migration and other national bodies studying climate change impacts.

A preliminary report on the findings of the project will be produced in October, ahead of the Copenhagen negotiations for a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. With scope for research up to and beyond the Copenhagen negotiations, the project will run until June 2010.

Explore our related content