Climate Change and Security

Written by  //  August 26, 2015  //  Climate Change, Security  //  1 Comment

International Institute for Strategic Studies: Climate Change and Security
The IISS believes climate change could have a serious effect on regional and global stability, and researches how global warming may affect disputes over territory, water and other resources, or could otherwise threaten peace. It also studies the mechanisms for averting ‘climate wars’.
The Center for Climate & Security – Exploring The Security Risks of Climate Change

People on the frontline of climate impacts are burning while governments fiddle. People are paying and will pay for the devastation of climate change with their lives, livelihoods, wellbeing, communities and culture — Dipti Bhatnagar and Susann Scherbarth

Global insecurity and refugee crisis linked to climate change: expert
(Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Climate change is “adding fuel to the fire” of worsening political instability and unrest around the world, an expert told a security forum.
“We are experiencing a surprising uptick in global insecurity… partially due to our inability to manage climate stress,” Columbia University professor Marc Levy, who conducts studies for U.S. government agencies, said on Tuesday at the Global Security Initiative, a research body in Arizona.
Ongoing violence in Syria, for example, is connected with climate change, Levy said.
A record drought in Syria from 2006 to 2010 wreaked havoc on agriculture, spurring an exodus of unemployed rural residents into urban areas and intensifying dissatisfaction with the government.
6 August
More Than 70 Countries Tell UN Security Council to Prioritize Climate Security Risks
As part of New Zealand’s July presidency of the UN Security Council, the country hosted a debate around matters of interest to small island developing nations under the heading, “Maintenance of international peace and security: peace and security challenges facing small island developing States.” Not surprisingly, climate risks to these nations were prevalent throughout the discussion. This debate built on an Arria-formula meeting held earlier in the year looking at climate risks to state fragility. The concept note for the debate presented by New Zealand drew attention to the fact that while the nations themselves may be small, they represent a significant number of UN member states. “The United Nations classifies 52 countries and territories as small island developing States, with a combined population of over 50 million people. This includes 37 Member States, one fifth of the total membership.” The document also mentions that the concerns of these nations, including climate change, are significant:
5 August
Pentagon Issues Scary Climate Security Report, as Russia Lays Claim to Vast Arctic Territory
(Slate) Global warming could turn the Arctic into a 21st-century battlefield, and the United States isn’t prepared. That’s the key takeaway from a new Pentagon report on the national security risks of climate change that, for the first time, looks region by region around the world from the standpoint of military commanders.
The report provides a consensus estimate of climate change’s security implications from each of the four-star generals who lead the military’s six regional combatant commands around the world. Though the appraisals differ by region, the report says they “share a common assessment of its significance.”
Just days after the Pentagon’s latest warning, a bold territorial claim by Russia on Tuesday—including to mineral rights in a region of the Arctic larger than France and Germany combined that includes the North Pole—emphasizes that the real-world implications of melting sea ice are rushing to a head much sooner than expected.
As the New York Times noted, such claims are a new phenomenon being driven by the ability of countries to drill for oil farther north because of melting ice caused by global warming. In recent years, temperatures in the Arctic have increased at twice the rate of the global average.
As Vladimir Chuprov of Greenpeace said in a statement, “the melting of the Arctic ice is uncovering a new and vulnerable sea, but countries like Russia and Norway want to turn it into the next Saudi Arabia.” If Chuprov’s prediction comes true, the Arctic could become one of the most important regions of geopolitical instability.
20 May
Obama Says Climate Change Endangers National Security
President says extreme weather and rising seas increase risk of global instability and conflict
(WSJ) As rising seas swallow low-lying areas and threaten coastal military installations and as extreme-weather events increase the need for humanitarian missions, the U.S. military will need to factor climate change into plans and operations, the president said. Politicians who say they care about military readiness should care about addressing climate change, he said.
A new White House report released Wednesday lays out the links between climate change and national security, saying that it may exacerbate existing stressors such as poverty and political instability, and may provide enabling environments for terrorist activity abroad. Climate change also will place new demands on U.S. military resources, the report says, as the Defense Department adapts to increased demands for disaster relief overseas.
1 April
Opinion: World Leaders Lack Ambition to Tackle Climate Crisis
(IPS) – World governments expect to agree to a new global treaty to combat climate change in Paris in December. As the catastrophic impacts of climate change become more evident, so too escalates the urgency to act.
Mar. 31 should have marked a major milestone on the road to Paris, yet only a handful of countries acted on it. Unfortunately, the few plans that were announced before that date show that our leaders lack the ambition to do what it takes to tackle the climate crisis.
National plans for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions will most likely form the basis of the Paris agreement. These plans – known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) – are meant to indicate a government’s self-stated commitment to solve the global climate crisis through domestic emission reductions as well as through support for the poorest and most vulnerable countries.
16 March
Vanuatu  cyclone PamA Cyclone Destroys a Nation
Pam, a Category 5 storm, has left most of Vanuatu’s population homeless
(The Atlantic) Torrential rains and winds up to 185 miles per hour lashed the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu on Saturday, downing power lines and flattening buildings throughout the country. The official death toll of the storm, called Tropical Cyclone Pam, is eight, but the final figure is likely to be considerably higher: Rescuers have been unable to communicate with residents living in the archipelago’s outlying islands.
Vanuatu President Baldwin Lonsdale said that Cyclone Pam destroyed schools and hospitals and rendered thousands homeless. “I stand to appeal on behalf of the government and the people to give a helping hand in this disaster,” he said, his voice heavy with emotion. The governments of Australia and New Zealand flew military planes loaded with supplies to Vanuatu, a cluster of 65 islands located some 2,000 miles east of Australia, and have pledged millions of dollars in aid. (BBC) Vanuatu Cyclone Pam: President appeals for ‘immediate’ help
Ban: Reducing disaster risk is central to sustainability
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is emphasizing the role that disaster-risk reduction plays in a sustainable world. “Disaster risk reduction advances progress on sustainable development and climate change,” Ban said at the Third World Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction, which was occurring as Cyclone Pam struck Vanuatu. Inter Press Service (3/16), Voice of America (3/15), Reuters (3/16)
2 March
syria-drought-629x418On a drought-hit farm in Syria, December 2010. Credit: Caterina Donattini/IPS

Syrian Conflict Has Underlying Links to Climate Change, Says Study
(IPS) – Was the four-year-old military conflict in Syria, which has claimed the lives of over 200,000 people, mostly civilians, triggered at least in part by climate change?
A new study by Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory says “a record drought that ravaged Syria in 2006-2010 was likely stoked by ongoing man-made climate change, and that the drought may have helped propel the 2011 Syrian uprising.”
Described as the worst ever recorded in the region, the drought is said to have destroyed agriculture in the breadbasket region of northern Syria, driving dispossessed farmers to cities, where poverty, government mismanagement and other factors created unrest that exploded in spring 2011.
“We’re not saying the drought caused the war,” said a cautious Richard Seager, a climate scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, who co-authored the study.
“We’re saying that added to all the other stressors, it helped kick things over the threshold into open conflict. And a drought of that severity was made much more likely by the ongoing human-driven drying of that region.”


13 October
Mark Carney: most fossil fuel reserves can’t be burned
Bank of England governor lends his support to ‘carbon bubble’ theory that coal, gas and oil assets are at risk, reports BusinessGreen
(The Guardian) The governor of the Bank of England has reiterated his warning that fossil fuel companies cannot burn all of their reserves if the world is to avoid catastrophic climate change, and called for investors to consider the long-term impacts of their decisions.
According to reports, Carney told a World Bank seminar on integrated reporting on Friday that the “vast majority of reserves are unburnable” if global temperature rises are to be limited to below 2C.
Carney is the latest high profile figure to lend his weight to the “carbon bubble” theory, which warns that fossil fuel assets, such as coal, oil and gas, could be significantly devalued if a global deal to tackle climate change is reached.
U.S. military lays out plan for coping with climate change
(Planet Ark) Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel unveiled the Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap at the Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas held in Arequipa, Peru.
“Climate change is a long-term trend, but with wise planning and risk mitigation now, we can reduce adverse impacts down range,” Hagel said.
The plan calls for the department to identify and assess effects of climate change on the military, integrate climate considerations and collaborate with other federal agencies and state governments on meeting challenges. …
Rising sea levels, extreme weather events and other consequences of a changing climate could exacerbate “many challenges, including infectious disease and terrorism,” the department said.
“The military could be called upon more often to support civil authorities, and provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the face of more frequent and more intense natural disasters,” the plan noted. …
Climate change can also affect the military at home, they said. The plan warned that areas like the Hampton Roads region in southeastern Virginia, which houses the largest concentration of U.S. military sites in the world, sees recurrent flooding now and could experience a 1.5-foot rise in sea levels in the next 20 to 50 years. More details on the report
4 August
UNEP: Complex link between conflict and climate change
Research into the effect of climate change on conflict is relatively new, but it already shows the subject is complex. “While the debate on this topic started in 2006-2007, there remains a large gulf between what is discussed at the global level and in the Security Council, and what is actually happening at the field level,” says David Jensen, who leads the Environmental Cooperation for Peacebuilding program for the United Nations Environment Programme. Inter Press Service (8/4)
28 May
One of the most important lines from Obama’s foreign policy speech at West Point today: “climate change – a creeping national security crisis that will help shape your time in uniform, as we’re called on to respond to refugee flows, natural disasters, and conflicts over water and food. That’s why, next year, I intend to make sure America is out front in a global framework to preserve our planet.”
Beyond Obama’s West Point speech: a foreign puzzle, not a real foreign policy
The president wants us to look past Afghanistan and Iraq. OK, fine: from drones to Damascus and Putin to the planet, these are parts of a not very unified whole
22 May
House Votes To Deny Climate Science And Ties Pentagon’s Hands On Climate Change
(Think Progress) Sea level rise impacting naval bases. Climate change altering natural disaster response. Drought influenced by climate change in the Middle East and Africa leading to conflicts over food and water — as in, for instance, Syria.
The military understands the realities of climate change and the negative impacts of heavy dependence on fossil fuels.
The U.S. House does not.
With a mostly party-line vote on Thursday, the House of Representatives passed an amendment sponsored by Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) that seeks to prevent the Department of Defense from using funding to address the national security impacts of climate change.
“You can’t change facts by ignoring them,” said Mike Breen, Executive Director of the Truman National Security Project, and leader of the clean energy campaign, Operation Free. “This is like trying to lose 20 pounds by smashing your bathroom scale.”
The full text of McKinley’s amendment
6 May
Warming already causing extreme weather, official report says
Courtesy of the Glob­al Change Re­search Pro­gram and World Science staff
Glob­al warm­ing is al­ready caus­ing more more ex­treme weath­er in the United States, and af­fect­ing the country in other “far-reaching ways,” a ma­jor new re­port finds.
The re­port, known as the Na­t­ional Cli­mate As­sess­ment, came from a large go­vernment-o­verseen pan­el known as the Glob­al Change Re­search Pro­gram, es­tab­lished by Con­gress.
“Cer­tain types of ex­treme weath­er events with links to cli­mate change have be­come more fre­quent and/or in­tense,” said an over­view of the re­port, which was un­veiled May 6 at the White House.
These events in­clude “pro­longed pe­ri­ods of heat, heavy down­pours, and, in some re­gions, floods and droughts. In ad­di­tion, warm­ing is caus­ing sea lev­el to rise and glaciers and Arc­tic sea ice to melt, and oceans are be­com­ing more acid­ic as they ab­sorb car­bon di­ox­ide. These and oth­er as­pects of cli­mate change are dis­rupt­ing peo­ple’s lives and dam­ag­ing some sec­tors of our econ­o­my,” said the over­view.
There is over­whelm­ing ev­i­dence that hu­man ac­ti­vi­ties are the pri­ma­ry cause of the glob­al warm­ing of the past 50 years, ac­cord­ing to the re­port. “The burn­ing of coal, oil, and gas, and clear­ing of forests have in­creased the con­centra­t­ion of car­bon di­ox­ide in the at­mos­phere by more than 40 per­cent since the In­dus­t­ri­al Rev­o­lu­tion, and it has been known for al­most two cen­turies that this car­bon di­ox­ide traps heat” in the at­mos­phere, the re­port not­ed
31 March

Climate change a threat to security, food and humankind – IPCC report
(The Guardian) Warming is leading to more volatile weather patterns that are already reducing crop yields, the IPCC has warned
A United Nations report raised the threat of climate change to a whole new level on Monday, warning of sweeping consequences to life and livelihood.
The report from the UN’s intergovernmental panel on climate change concluded that climate change was already having effects in real time – melting sea ice and thawing permafrost in the Arctic, killing off coral reefs in the oceans, and leading to heat waves, heavy rains and mega-disasters.
And the worst was yet to come. Climate change posed a threat to global food stocks, and to human security, the blockbuster report said.
“Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change,” said Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC.
Monday’s report was the most sobering so far from the UN climate panel and, scientists said, the most definitive. The report – a three year joint effort by more than 300 scientists – grew to 2,600 pages and 32 volumes.


2 August
Will conflicts become more frequent due to climate change?
(The Guardian) When I lived in Nigeria, it was always said that there was more fighting in the weeks before the rains broke. Equally, in Pakistan and India, there is lots of anecdotal evidence to suggest there is more crime when it is extremely hot.
It is the same in China and the US, where riots invariably take place in the summer, and there is a well-known increase in murders between the months of July and September. Warmer than usual weather appears to mean more people on the streets, more conflict between individuals, groups and countries, and more riots and rapes. Poverty Matters Blog (8/2)
Warmer climate could lead to increased conflict, violence
Climate change: Conflict rises with temperature, study finds, and hotter temps lead to global violence.
(UPI) Climate change is strongly linked to human conflict, and even minor changes in temperature or rainfall can increase violence, according to researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and Princeton University.
Researchers conducted an analysis of studies across multiple fields, including climatology, archaeology, economics, political science and psychology, and found patterns of conflict linked to climate change worldwide.”We collected 60 existing studies containing 45 different data sets and we re-analyzed their data and findings using a common statistical framework,” said lead author Solomon Hsiang. “The results were striking.”
“Examples include spikes in domestic violence in India and Australia; increased assaults and murders in the United States and Tanzania; ethnic violence in Europe and South Asia; land invasions in Brazil; police using force in the Netherlands; civil conflicts throughout the tropics; and even the collapse of Mayan and Chinese empires.”
1 August

Global warming, more wars? Climate could spark more conflict, study says.

A ‘metastudy’ of 60 other studies suggests that there is a clear link between the climate and violence. Global warming raises the specter of more conflict, especially in Africa.
(CSM) Peacemakers are likely to be in great demand by 2050 if global warming proceeds unabated.
That is the implication of a new analysis exploring the links between climate change and conflict. The work represents the first attempt to survey a burgeoning number of studies on the subject to see if they point in a common direction and to quantify the overall effect the studies identify, researchers say.
The scientists conducting this “metastudy” estimate that if greenhouse-gas emissions from human industrial activity follow the business-as-usual path, and especially if people respond to changing climate in the future in much the same way they have throughout human history, warmer temperatures could significantly increase the risk of tribal, ethnic, or civil wars, as well as battles between countries. …
John O’Loughlin, a geographer at the University of Colorado at Boulder who explores the interplay of environmental conditions and conflict notes that in his research, as in the new study, climate conditions play a role. But his own work suggests that warming temperatures or extreme precipitation are poor predictors of risk compared with the social, economic, and political drivers for conflict.

Center for American Progress: The Arab Spring and Climate Change — A Climate and Security Correlations Series
Over the past two decades, the role of planetary changes—the human impact on climate, biodiversity, and natural resources, from water to fish to forests—have exacerbated the perils of the human condition even as technological advances have created whole new worlds. (28 February 2013)
Chatham House Briefing Paper – Cleo Paskal: How climate change is pushing the boundaries of security and foreign policy ; More of Cleo’s publications ; Global Warring website;  International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) Climate Change and Security ; The Regional Impacts of Climate Change ; Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS)


14 April
United States, China reach critical deal on climate change
(National Post) The world’s two biggest polluters have signed what could be a groundbreaking agreement and “call to action” on the fight against escalating climate change.
The United States and China announced Sunday they would accelerate action to reduce greenhouse gases by advancing cooperation on technology, research, conservation, and alternative and renewable energy.
But while the listed actions sound relatively mundane, the words that accompanied the announcement were not. In a joint and quite powerful statement on the dangers of climate change, the two sides said they “consider that the overwhelming scientific consensus regarding climate change constitutes a compelling call to action crucial to having a global impact on climate change.”
Security Council’s next steps on climate change
The United Nations Security Council has done much to promote the link between security and climate change, but its task is not done, writes Matthew Berger. “I think one of the most important steps that could realistically be taken now would be to appoint a special representative on climate and security to the General Assembly,” said Taylor Dimsdale, a researcher at the nonprofit E3G. The InterDependent (3/28)

Group: U.S. security requires climate leadership
Unless the U.S. joins the international community to help poor countries tackle climate change, the world and the U.S face instability and security threats, says a group of U.S. national-security experts. The group said in an open letter that “the cost of inaction, paid for in lives and valuable U.S. resources, will be staggering.” AlertNet/Reuters (2/26)

Security Council is studying climate change’s link to security

The United Nations Security Council is scheduled to meet today about the effects of climate change on global security. Joachim Schellnhuber of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research will brief members on a “reality that cannot be washed away” that is likely to spawn “all kinds of unrest and revolutions, with the export of angry and hungry people to the industrialized countries.” Bloomberg (2/14)


3 October

Pentagon Study Cites Climate Change as National Security Threat

by Renée Parsons:
(HuffPost)  Even before recent predictions that Arctic sea ice would melt by the summer of 2016 in a “final collapse,” setting off a “global disaster,” the Pentagon and the Center for Naval Analyses’s (CNA) Military Advisory Board had already gone on record warning about the impacts of climate change as a threat to national security.
To better understand the impact of global water challenges on U.S. national security interests, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton requested the intelligence community to produce a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) which resulted in an unclassified Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) prepared by the National Intelligence Council (NIC).
Even after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released its ICA on Global Water Security in February, 2012 and the ICA and the CNA released its National Security and the Threat of Climate Change in 2007, the current incarnation of the Republican party continues to deny the relationship of CO2 emissions to extreme weather patterns — with presidential candidate and former Governor Mitt Romney stating that “there remains a lack of scientific consensus on the extent of warming… and the severity of the risk.”


UN needs a special rep for climate-security issues
United Nations members should endorse the appointment of special representative on climate change and security to help map UN action on conflict surrounding climate change effects, Nauru’s UN Ambassador Marlene Moses writes. Last week, the Security Council formally acknowledged the link between climate concerns and security with a statement, but disagreements over what active role the UN should play remain. The Huffington Post (7/24)
21 July
UN official warns climate change could lead to conflicts over resources
(MSNBC) “There can be little doubt today that climate change has potentially far-reaching implications for global stability and security,’ he says. …
Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, told the U.N. Security Council Wednesday that natural resources would be “at increasing risk from climate change and its impacts.”
Steiner told the Security Council that climate change could potentially “sharply intensify” the displacement of people from some areas, “bringing communities into increasing competition for finite natural resources with world-wide repercussions for the stability of the global economy.”
“Competition over scarce water and land, exacerbated by regional changes in climate, are already a key factor in local-level conflicts in Darfur, the Central African Republic, northern Kenya, and Chad, for example-when livelihoods are threatened by declining natural resources, people either innovate, flee or can be brought into conflict,” he said.
“In total, 145 countries share one or more international river basins. Changes in water flows, amplified by climate change, could be a major source of tension between states, especially those that lack the capacity for co-management and cooperation,” he added.


22 June
Cleo Paskal’s Global Warring wins Grantham Prize Award of Special Merit
Jury Comments: In this fascinating, penetrating and stylistically crafted book, Cleo Paskal goes where other examinations of climate change have not – beyond the impacts to particular species or ecosystems and to the very structure on which our global civilization is built: the relationships between and among nations.
Paskal makes a convincing case that climate change will threaten global security and rock already tenuous geopolitical balances around the world. She begins with the most likely climate-change scenarios, then subjects them to insightful economic and political analysis.
18 June
Warming increases the risk of civil war in Africa
Marshall B. Burkea, Edward Miguelc, Shanker Satyanathd, John A. Dykemae, and David B. Lobellb
Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Department of Economics, University of California Berkeley; Department of Politics, New York University; School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University; and Program on Food Security and the Environment, Stanford University
(Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, December 2009) Armed conflict within nations has had disastrous humanitarian consequences throughout much of the world. Here we undertake the first comprehensive examination of the potential impact of global climate change on armed conflict in sub-Saharan Africa. We find strong historical linkages between civil war and temperature in Africa, with warmer years leading to significant increases in the likelihood of war. When combined with climate model projections of future temperature trends, this historical response to temperature suggests a roughly 54% increase in armed conflict incidence by 2030, or an additional 393,000 battle deaths if future wars are as deadly as recent wars. Our results suggest an urgent need to reform African governments’ and foreign aid donors’ policies to deal with rising temperatures.
Cleo Paskal: Global Warring: How Environmental, Economic, and Political Crises Will Redraw the World Map
(HuffPost) The Western U.S. is facing critical water shortages potentially affecting development prospects. The infrastructure on the Gulf Coast is being undermined, throwing into question the viability of just-in-time delivery models. The thawing Arctic is leading to a potential major security vulnerability along North America’s northern perimeter. Global energy infrastructure is becoming increasing unstable, compromising security of supply.
In fact, it is now nearly impossible to make any reliable medium-to-long term geopolitical or economic projections without taking environmental change in to account.
16 March
The Cold War was never this hot!

We live in interesting times. The biggest western economic institutions are crumbling, what were once marginalized voices are now dominating international negotiations, and touchstone climate events, such as the monsoon, are failing. Everywhere you look economic, geopolitical and environmental assumptions are being shaken to the core. The world is changing. Fast.
Global Warring examines these trends by combining insightful economic and political analysis with the most likely environmental change scenarios.

It identifies problem areas that could start conflicts (access to water and resources in Asia), economic trends that are shifting the balance of power (China’s policy of nationalistic capitalism), and geopolitical realignments (the burgeoning strategic partnership between the United States and India).
Award-winning writer and geopolitical expert Cleo Paskal makes sense of this overwhelming topic by dividing it into five sections: how seemingly impervious western nations, such as the United States, are shockingly vulnerable to hurricanes, storm surges and rising sea levels, and what that could mean for their internal stability and economic development; how the thawing Arctic is opening up a whole new arena for power politics as some of the world’s biggest countries wrangle for control over vast resources, strategic shipping routes such as the Northwest Passage and geopolitical leverage; how changing precipitation patterns, extreme weather and water shortages are creating severe disruptions in India and China, and how that could affect their relations with each other, and the world; how rising sea levels may shift borders and alter the very notion of statehood, potentially challenging international law to the breaking point; and, finally, what could happen in coming decades, and how to avoid the worst of it.

There is an increasing realization within the international community that climate change is an issue with implications across the full sweep of government policy. No longer is climate change seen as merely an environmental problem or an energy challenge. In recent years, it has become viewed as a core development challenge that carries potentially serious implications for international peace and security. IISD

The politics of climate change
By Alan Hustak on February 11, 2010
(The Metropolitan) Everyone in the non-stop debate on climate change has an opinion, but how much consideration has been given to the potential seismic shift in international diplomacy that can be attributed to global warming? What happens to nation states, to the realignment of political boundaries, and to shifting corporate interests as we become even more dependent on fossil fuels, and as forests disappear, farmland is exhausted and sources of fresh water evaporate? This month, Veteran Quebec journalist Cleo Paskal raises the ante in the debate with her book, Global Warring, which makes the powerful argument that the map of the world as we know it is about to be redrawn as resource rich countries try to protect their natural sources of energy and others aggressively try to secure new ones.
25 January
Questioning how things work
Travel writer Cleo Paskal is an expert on how environmental change affects the economic and political realms
(Gazette) Paskal has also become an expert in a topic to which the world is just waking up: how environmental change, from Quebec to New Orleans to Shanghai, may affect the politics and economies of the globe and, indeed, even its borders. Now an associate fellow at Chatham House, a think tank in London, she is also an adjunct professor at two universities in India and has been asked to brief everyone from NATO, the EU and CSIS to the U.S. Department of Energy and the CEOs of some of the world’s largest companies.
Her first book on the topic, Global Warring: How Environmental, Economic and Political Crises Will Redraw the World Map, will be launched tomorrow at the Redpath Museum.
14 January
From animated TV to ecological geography – Cleo Paskal
(National Post) For the book, Paskal opted to approach the subject of climate change from a new angle, investigating the connections between politics and the environment.
“There’s that old expression, ‘Geography makes history,’ but now it seems that environmental change is remaking geography,” she says. “I wanted to look at what happens to the geo-strategic potential of a country when it disappears or when its borders are affected by a natural disaster.”
11 January
Walker’s World: From warming to warring
(UPI) The Copenhagen summit showed that climate change is as much about geopolitics and power as it is about the weather. China’s blunt refusal to accept any binding limits on its carbon emissions, despite the agonized pleas of small island governments facing extinction, demonstrated that this new aspect of the game of nations is going to be played as hardball.
And yet, as Cleo Paskal argues in her pioneering new book “Global Warring,” China is also powering ahead on every aspect of climate change. While protecting its right to pollute (because it depends heavily on coal as its main homegrown energy source), China is using state subsidies to seize the lead in solar power
5 January
Cleo Paskal on the Global Warming Wars
(Zócalo) Cleo Paskal calls herself a “recovering journalist.” After years as a foreign correspondent, Paskal, now an Associate Fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London and author of Global Warring: How Environmental, Economic, and Political Crises Will Redraw the World Map, began to see through her reporting three major shifts: geopolitical, geoeconomic, and geophysical. “The first two were relatively well-covered. We all know about the rise of Asia and the financial crisis,” she said. “But we haven’t really started, at least when I began the book, to come to grips with what the geophysical changes would mean, especially in the context of the other two.” Paskal chatted with Swati Pandey of Zócalo on why geophysical shifts have been long ignored and how they could impact our world as resources grow scarce and climate grows more treacherous.
NATO and Military Strategists Plan for Global Warring
(HuffPost) While the carbon industries and their PR firms continue to spread disinformation attempting to discredit climate science on global heating, the world’s military leaders and strategists are preparing for the certain conflicts that will arise as the environment changes due to human activity. The speed at which the planet is heating and the rate at which feedback mechanisms are contributing to warming are of growing concern especially in countries facing critical resource depletion in the near future.
There were many aspects of the growing Climate Crisis being addressed in Copenhagen outside of the Bella center and the COP15 negotiations. One particularly informative event was Climate Change and the Military. The luncheon was chaired by Tom Spencer, Vice Chairman, Institute for Environmental Security and Project Coordinator, Climate Change & the Military and the speakers included; Brigadier General (ret) Wendell Chris King, Dean of Academics, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Major General (ret) Muniruzzaman, President, Bangladesh Institute for Peace and Security Studies, Alexandros Papaioannou, Policy Adviser, Policy Planning Unit, NATO, Nick Mabey, CEO and Founding Director, E3G, Cleo Paskal, Associate Fellow, Chatham House.
Despite the claims of the flat earth society to the contrary, the reality of human driven climate change is front and center for international military contingency planning. That such a distinguished panel of military leaders and strategists assembled in Copenhagen is indicative of how serious the threats posed by climate and environmental changes to the security and safety of human civilization actually are.


20 December
Copenhagen: A lesson in geopolitics
(Al Jazeera)  … longtime observers of climate negotiations never expected a sweeping deal in Copenhagen, especially considering today’s polarised and charged geopolitics. The rift between rich and poor countries remains wide, and the chasm paralysed the negotiations.
Cleo Paskal, a fellow in the Energy, Environment and Development Programme at the British think tank Chatham House, says the world’s changing political landscape is partly why even Obama’s last-minute brokering did not produce something powerful.
“Climate change has become part of global politics,” Paskal says. “There was a very high expectation from the West that a deal would be pushed through. But what’s happened is a real wake-up call to how geopolitics has changed.”
… If there continues to be an international stalemate on a binding climate accord, countries may try to find regional ways to deal with carbon emissions as well as more immediate environmental issues, such as polluted water supplies, says Paskal of Chatham House.
She also says countries should consider sharing information and ideas on how to adapt to global warming-induced changes such as rising sea levels and more severe storms. Poor countries like Bangladesh have innovated to handle the chronic floods and storms there but “if you have a flood on the US coast you get Katrina,” Paskal says, referencing the 2005 hurricane that killed at least 1,836 people and displaced thousands, mainly in greater New Orleans.
“The developed world is going to suffer way more severe impacts than is being acknowledged,” she says. “For example, if Miami is hit by a category five hurricane, which is not unlikely, the implications will be staggering both economically and socially, and yet there are very few plans in place to deal with it. “People think these are just problems for the developing world, but they’re not. It’s going to affect everyone.”
Copenhagen Wrap-Up – Paskal
(CBC The Current Part 2) … according to Cleo Paskal, even a successful end to the meetings in Copenhagen would still fall short because it wouldn’t address the political fallout from things like rising sea levels, natural disasters, and the population movement that come with climate change.
9 December
Carteret Islands: ‘The sea is killing our island paradise’
Climate change is destroying the Carteret Islands.
The people of the Carterets, for 300 years ignored by all but a few passers-by, can lay claim to a dubious distinction: within the next six months, some 240 of them – 40 families – will leave for good, driven from their homes by sea-level rise. In five years, half of the population, estimated at 2,500 people, is expected to have been evacuated to bigger, less vulnerable islands, some of the first refugees displaced as a result of man-made global warming. Some believe the islands will be uninhabitable by 2015.
Cleo in Copenhagen
Climate Challenges Beyond Copenhagen
Experts’ Comment – 9 December 2009
Cleo Paskal, Associate Fellow, Energy, Environment and Development Programme
We don’t need a crystal ball to know that even the ‘best case’ at Copenhagen would not be enough to prevent fundamental destabilization. Already climate change is combining with other existing environmental change factors, such as consumption increases, depleted agricultural lands and water scarcity to create widespread disruptions to stability.
Energy infrastructure is a case in point. More
Delivering Climate Security: Official COP15 side event
What the security community needs from a global climate regime
Join leading climate security experts for a COP15 side event exploring climate change impacts on national security and how the global climate regime can address this threat.
Thursday 17th December, 2:45pm – 4:15pm
28 September
CIA opens center for climate change
LANGLEY, Va., Sept. 28 (UPI) — The Central Intelligence Agency announced plans to launch a center on climate change to examine the potential security risks of environmental issues. The CIA said it was working on its new Center on Climate Change and National Security to examine the national security impact of environmental issues such as population shifts, rising sea levels and increased competition for natural resources. CIA Director Leon Panetta described the center as an effective support tool for U.S. lawmakers examining international agreements on the environment. “Decision makers need information and analysis on the effects climate change can have on security,” said the director. “The CIA is well positioned to deliver that intelligence.”
The CIA will use the center to coordinate with other members of the intelligence community to review and declassify imagery and other data for use in environmental and climate-related issues.
11 September
The 42-member Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) – a key negotiating bloc in international climate negotiations – has welcomed growing support for its call to limit global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius (°C). More
31 August
John Kerry: We Can’t Ignore the Security Threat from Climate Change
Facts, as John Adams said, are stubborn things. Here are a few you need to know: Atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels have risen 38% in the industrial era, from 280 to 385 parts per million (ppm). Scientists have warned that anything above 450 ppm — a warming of 2 degrees Celsius — will result in an unacceptable risk of catastrophic climate change. The truth is that the threat we face is not an abstract concern for the future. It is already upon us and its effects are being felt worldwide, right now. Scientists project that the Arctic will be ice-free in the summer of 2013. Not in 2050, but four years from now.
Make no mistake: catastrophic climate change represents a threat to human security, global stability, and — yes — even to American national security.
9 August
Climate Change Seen as Threat to U.S. Security
(NYT) WASHINGTON — The changing global climate will pose profound strategic challenges to the United States in coming decades, raising the prospect of military intervention to deal with the effects of violent storms, drought, mass migration and pandemics, military and intelligence analysts say.
Such climate-induced crises could topple governments, feed terrorist movements or destabilize entire regions, say the analysts, experts at the Pentagon and intelligence agencies who for the first time are taking a serious look at the national security implications of climate change.
Recent war games and intelligence studies conclude that over the next 20 to 30 years, vulnerable regions, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and South and Southeast Asia, will face the prospect of food shortages, water crises and catastrophic flooding driven by climate change that could demand an American humanitarian relief or military response.
July 2009
Cleo Paskal: The Vulnerability of Energy Infrastructure to Environmental Change Download Paper here
Chatham House Briefing Paper – (Updated version)
* Much energy infrastructure lies in areas that are predicted to become increasingly physically unstable owing to changes in the environment.
* Already there have been environment-related disruptions to hydroelectric installations, offshore oil and gas production, pipelines, electrical transmission and nuclear power generation.
* As a result of scheduled decommissioning, revised environmental standards, stimulus spending and new development, there is likely to be substantial investment in new energy infrastructure.
* It is critical that new and existing infrastructure be designed or retrofitted for changing environmental conditions.
* It is no longer sufficient only to assess our impact on the environment; now we must also assess the impact of a changing environment on us.
Rising Temperatures, Rising Tensions: Climate change and the risk of violent conflict in the Middle East
(IISD) In a region already considered the world’s most water scarce and where, in many places, demand for water already outstrips supply, climate models are predicting a hotter, drier and less predictable climate in the Middle East. Climate change threatens to reduce the availability of scarce water resources, increase food insecurity, hinder economic growth and lead to large scale population movements. This could hold serious implications for peace in the region.
June 2009
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace –The Arctic Climate Change and Security Policy Conference: Final Report and Findings
The environment and the management of natural resources are the most pressing security issues in the North. States are committed to addressing boundary and access issues through existing institutions, principally UNCLOS. Large-scale damage to the Arctic from transportation accidents, energy development, fishing, and pollutants from the South pose greater immediate threats than classic security issues. Existing emergency response systems and contingency plans are not up to the task.
17 April
Cleo Paskal: Climate Change and Developed-Country Complacency Syndrome
While it is now widely acknowledged that environmental change, including climate change, could severely undermine security in the developing world, the implications for the developed world are just starting to be discussed. A sort of “developed-country complacency syndrome” has led many to assume that the main security problems for a country like the United States, such as waves of refugees or the need to intervene when other nations face disasters or conflicts, would be imported from abroad. Unfortunately, the United States is likely to face some fairly severe “Made in the USA” problems, as well.
For instance, as the economic stimulus package is rolled out, the United States is entering a historic period of new infrastructure construction. From a security perspective, this could help maintain stability, or it could be a disaster. What might make the difference is assessing how potential sites could be affected by environmental change. Transportation systems, defensive capabilities, agriculture, power generation, water supply, and more are all designed for the specific parameters of their physical environments—or, more often, the physical environments of the Victorian, Depression-era, or post-WWII periods in which they were originally built. That is why unplanned environmental change almost always has negative impacts.
9 April
Cleo Paskal: UK National Security and Environmental Change (download paper from here)
(IPPR) The world is undergoing simultaneous upheavals in three major areas: geopolitical, geoeconomic and environmental. The geopolitical and geo-economic shifts raise obvious national security concerns. The implications of the third, environmental change, are more difficult to quantify but are just as critical.
From a security perspective, our environment is the infrastructure upon which we graft all other infrastructure. In the UK the transport systems, cities, defensive capabilities, agriculture, power generation, water supply and more are all designed for the specific parameters of the physical environment – or, more often, the physical environment of the Victorian or post-WWII periods in which they were originally built. This is why unplanned environmental change almost always has a negative effect. In the case of a change in precipitation patterns, for example, the drainage systems, reservoirs and hydro installations can all fail not because they were poorly engineered, but because they were engineered for different conditions. We are literally not designed for environmental change.
March 2009
Climate Change and Security in Africa
(IISD) Climate change–by redrawing global maps of water availability, food security, disease prevalence and coastal boundaries–could potentially increase forced migration, raise tensions and trigger new conflicts.
Although Africa is the least responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, it is almost universally seen as the continent most at risk of climate-induced conflict due to its reliance on climate-dependent sectors (such as rain-fed agriculture) and its history of resource, ethnic and political conflicts. In this report, prepared for the Nordic-African Foreign Ministers Forum in Copenhagen in March, 2009, IISD examines the threats that climate change could pose to security for the continent, as well as strategies for peace and development in a changing climate.


30 November
(Council on Foreign Relations) “Climate Change and National Security: An Agenda for Action
Council Report Argues for New Policies to Protect National Security Interests from Consequences of Climate Change
Hurricane Katrina underscored how extreme weather events—which are expected to become more severe and more numerous with climate change—can overwhelm civilian disaster response capabilities and become national security issues. As climate negotiators gather in Bali, Indonesia, a new Council Special Report argues that new policies are needed at home and abroad in order to strengthen national security and reduce vulnerabilities to climate disasters. More
23 August 2007
Cleo Paskal: The changing security climate (part one)
Construction on flood plains, unsustainable population movements and inappropriate crop plantation all contribute to harmful environmental change. In the first of three articles, Cleo Paskal argues for a multifaceted defence in a critical global battle.
30 January
Climate change creates security challenge ‘more complex than Cold War’
By Ben Vogel, Editor of
Speaking during the ‘Climate Change: The Global Security Impact‘ conference, on 24 January, at the Royal United Services Institute [RUSI], John Ashton, the UK Foreign Secretary’s Special Representative for Climate Change, said … “The last time the world faced a challenge this complex was during the Cold War.” Yet the stakes this time are even higher, because the enemy now “is ourselves, the choices we make”.
Speakers at the conference stressed that the effects of climate change are not only negative in themselves, but may also exacerbate existing areas of political and social tension.

One Comment on "Climate Change and Security"

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