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

Climate, Crop, and Conflict: a matter of space?

Anthropogenic climate change poses unprecedented threats to socio-ecological systems, affecting the lives of millions of people around the world. Among others, global warming has resulted in an increased frequency, intensity and duration of extremes, such as heatwaves, droughts and heavy precipitations. Climate-related impacts include alteration of ecosystems, disruption of food production and water supply, damage to infrastructure and settlements, increased morbidity and mortality, and potential implications for mental health and human well-being.

Figure 1″Refugees from South Sudan in El Daein, East Darfur” by UNAMID Photo.

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The World Food Program won the Nobel Peace Prize. Does food aid boost peace?

The Norwegian Nobel Committee named this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, recognizing the World Food Program (WFP) for “for its efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict.”

Photo: heb@Wikimedia Commons

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COVID-19, Food Access, and Social Upheaval

According to the World Food Program’s (WFP) latest report, the COVID-19 pandemic will lead to an 82 percent increase in global food insecurity, affecting around 270 million people by the end of the year. On June 29, the organization announced it is undertaking its largest humanitarian effort to assist an increasing number of food-insecure low- and middle-income countries. In a statement about the plan, WFP Executive Director David Beasley said that “until the day we have a medical vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos. Without it, we could see increased social unrest and protests, a rise in migration, deepening conflict, and widespread under-nutrition among populations that were previously immune from hunger.”

Why is the pandemic leading to more food insecurity? And why is David Beasley talking about social unrest and protest in connection with food?

Disaster relief in Haiti due to Hurricane Matthew. Photo courtesy of The 621st Contingency Response Wing.

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Development aid increases local resilience to drought

The recently concluded UN Millennium Development Goals framework documented significant progress (although not complete success) in halving the proportion of people suffering from hunger by 2015, compared to 1990. However, in the most recent years, the global rate of undernourishment has again been on the rise. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the main cause of this retrogression is escalating violence in war-affected areas. Making matters worse, the human cost of war is sometimes compounded by climate shocks, most notably drought.

Water from the Massaca Water Reservoir in Mozambique is used to irrigate local agriculture. Photo: John Hogg/World Bank/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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Big Data Applications for Climate-Conflict Research

‘Big data’ analytics – the collection and analysis of large amounts of data – is having a transformative impact on scientific research across disciplines. Although there is no single and consistent definition, there are three commonly agreed upon indicators of big data, the three ‘V’s: volume, velocity and variety. Volume refers to the massive amounts of data, velocity to the constant production and stream of data and variety to its unstructured nature. Machine learning (ML; initially teaching computers to learn and process information to ultimately perform tasks without out the need for further instruction) is a popular tool used, making connections and findings faster than humans.

How cell-phone data can be used to map population movement. This example illustrates population flows after the 2013 Cyclone Mahasen in Bangladesh. Image courtesy of Shreya Shah (Yale University), published in PNAS.


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Common climate impact assessments underestimate future vulnerability

Climate-related disasters are a major source of human and material losses. Poverty and low level of economic development are important determinants of environmental vulnerability. Achieving stable and sustainable development thus represents an important strategy to reduce adverse impacts of climate change. However, present efforts to evaluate possible consequences of climate change in the future suffer from too optimistic assumptions about economic growth in poor countries, as we document in a new article just published in the journal Global Environmental Politics.

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