What’s Next in Climate Security Studies? Exploiting Synergies between Practice and Research

The increase in global temperatures by over 1 degree Celsius since pre-industrial times is already having broad and significant impacts. An ongoing multi-year drought in Eastern Africa, for instance, has been attributed to global warming. Hunger crises, displacement, and exacerbated conflict between pastoralist groups are some of the reported dire consequences. This blog post reports on a recent study of the consequences of environmental hazards for attitudes toward violence in Uganda. The story was originally published by New Security Beat.

The past several years have led to greater recognition of climate-related threats. Most recently, Malta, Mozambique, Switzerland and the UAE made a public pledge to championing climate change within the United Nations Security Council. While a comprehensive resolution on climate change as a threat to peace and security has yet to be adopted, climate change impacts on instability have already been acknowledged in multiple UN Security Council resolutions on UN missions, including those addressing ongoing armed conflicts in DR Congo, Iraq, Somalia and South Sudan.

Indeed, existing research indicates that regions already affected by conflict are particularly vulnerable to seeing increased risks in various ways.  This vulnerability is manifested not only in conflict-affected populations being more sensitive to droughts, storms, or floods, but also in the so-called conflict trap. This trap encompasses widespread poverty, erosion of trust, and the availability of weapons and armed actors due to ongoing conflict, causing violence to perpetuate itself. Climate-related hazards can further exacerbate the economic dimensions of this trap.

Understanding how and why these patterns come about is a gap in current knowledge, however. Can we go beyond these general observations of climate-related fragility, and understand the specific conditions under which individuals in such areas resort to arms? In-depth systematic studies are rare. Yet addressing this gap is important not only to provide critical evidence on pathways to conflict, but also for informing how to mitigate such risks.
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Armed Conflict and Climate Change: How These Two Threats Play Out in Africa

The world is falling miserably short of reducing Climate carbon emissions in line with the Paris Agreement, a 2015 treaty to keep global warming well below 2℃.

The results of this failure are a greater increase in the prevalence and severity of extreme weather events, more rapid sea-level rises and an elevated risk of triggering irreversible climate tipping points, like the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet or the loss of the Amazon rainforest.

Photo: Stephen Dupont / DFAT / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The speed and magnitude of these changes have immediate consequences for ecosystem health and biodiversity. Further, sustained climate change threatens fundamental dimensions of human wellbeing.
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Climate Policy Must Be Inclusive to Be Successful

Climate justice is essential if we are to succeed in preventing global warming of 1.5 to 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels. This is a point that receives far greater attention in the new Working Group II contribution to the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report than in previous reports.

Photo: EU/ECHO/Anouk Delafortrie

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published the second part of its Sixth Assessment Report on 28 February 2022. Since the previous report was published in 2014, climate change has become ever more obvious. This is reflected both in the scientific literature and in people’s experiences around the world. Increased occurences of extreme weather events such as floods, heatwaves and associated wildfires, storms and hurricanes are all examples that have dominated the news media in recent years.Read More

New Report by the IPCC: Climate Adaptation Is Happening Too Slowly

When the first part of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) was released last summer, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres declared “Code Red for humanity”. The report documented that climate change is more extensive and occurs more rapidly than previously assumed, and showed the urgency of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In this blog post, seven authors of the second part of the AR6, reflect on documented consequences of climate change and what is required to minimize future loss and damage.

Flooding in Gonaïves, Haiti after Hurricane Tomas in 2010. Informal, densely populated urban areas like this are among those most vulnerable to future climate change. PHOTO: UN/Marco Dormino CC-BY-NC-ND

The average temperature on Earth is now 1.1°C warmer than when industrialization began in around 1850, and the warming has been particularly great in the northernmost areas of the world. The rise in temperature and the associated melting of glaciers, sea-level rise, and increased incidence of extreme weather events are caused primarily by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is now higher than at any time in the past two million years.Read More

Hope and Despair in the Indus River Delta: Navigating the Treacherous Waters of Capitalism, Climate Change and Politics

Concern over the impacts of climate change is rising globally, and often seen in relation to migration. Drawing on MIGNEX fieldwork in Keti Bandar, a Pakistani fishing port in the Indus river delta, we sketch observed climate change impacts and scope for local action.

Fishing boat on soil affected by increasing salination. Photo: Prithvi Raj for MIGNEX. CC BY-SA

Lost Glory

What is today a fishing port that has seen sharp decline, was once a propsperous place, in Pakistan and the region. The glorious past is not ancient; stories of prosperity date from as late as the time of Pakistani independence in 1947. While the town was diverse, the Hindu trading community was an important source of capital, entrepreneurship and culture. Watered by the Indus, the hinterland was fertile.Read More

Can we predict climate change impacts on future peace and security?

In the same manner as societies are developing policies to strike the optimal balance between public safety and social and economic cost of COVID-19, the international community is negotiating strategies to address climate change. However, unlike lockdowns, vaccination, and other responses to the ongoing pandemic, risk-reducing effects of alternative climate policies cannot be observed in real time. Instead, to assist decision-makers, scientists have developed a scenario framework that allows analyzing how different socioeconomic development pathways (SSPs) and global warming trajectories (RCPs) jointly may affect nature and society over the 21st century. Over the past handful of years, literally thousands of published studies have used the SSP-RCP scenario framework to explore implications of climate and societal change for a broad range of outcomes. Can we use the same approach to forecast climate change impacts on armed conflict?

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Obscuring the True Causes of Conflicts

Is Norway’s mission on the Security Council to reinforce the myth that climate change is a root cause of violent conflicts? This will make finding lasting solutions more difficult.

Photo: OSCE / Fran Hdez

As a new member of the UN Security Council, Norway has identified climate security as one of four key thematic priorities to put on the Council’s agenda over the next two years. Russia and China, in particular, are sceptical about the relevance of climate change to peace and security, and Norway must now endeavour to win over these countries and other members of the Security Council to its view.

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Climate and Security: What will Norway do during its term as an elected member of the Council?

Today, no nation can find lasting security without addressing the climate crisis. While climate change is rarely, if ever, the root cause of conflict, its cascading effects make it a systemic security risk.

The UN Security Council will increasingly be forced to respond to the security impacts of climate change. Our global stability, human development, and prosperity depend on our collective response to addressing climate change, and on our ability to make our climate action conflict sensitive and our peacebuilding efforts climate sensitive.

Norwegian PM Erna Solberg speaks at the recent international leaders summit on climate change. Photo: Arvid Samland / Statsministerens kontor

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Can the effects of climatic change predict asylum migration to Europe?

Five years after the European migration and refugee crisis, displacement remains a pressing issue worldwide. According to the UNHCR, the global number of forcibly displaced people passed 80 million during 2020 – the highest estimate ever recorded. Several factors have contributed to this increase, including a rise in political violence and instability, extreme weather events, and – most recently – knock-on effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. With adverse impacts of climate change increasingly unfolding in real-time, concerns are mounting that the world will see a dramatic increase in migration in coming decades.

Migrants crossing the Greek countryside (CC BY)

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Climate-conflict research: A decade of scientific progress

The last decade was the warmest on record, with 2020 tied with 2016 for the all-time high average annual global temperature. This 10-year period also saw armed conflicts at severity levels not seen since the Cold War era. Could there be a causal link between these trends?

To the frustration of policymakers and laymen alike, empirical research has been unable to provide a simple and coherent answer to this question. Instead, studies of climate-conflict connections have for a long time continued to produce diverging findings and – occasionally – inspired heated debates. So, where do we stand?Read More