Podcast: We Must Address the Climate-Security Nexus

Scientists are still studying the links between climate change, migration patterns and conflict. Because of the extraordinarily complicated range of factors that impact why people migrate and how conflicts are started, it’s nearly impossible to point to a single occurrence today and blame it on climate alone.

Clearly, factors that may impact conflict can be exacerbated by a warming planet. Demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt that sparked the Arab Spring last year began partly because of protests over rising food prices — a persistent problem that will increase with more severe heat waves, droughts and floods — see Climate Story of the Year: Warming-Driven Drought and Extreme Weather Emerge as Key Threat to Global Food Security.

And in Darfur, a prolonged drought was one of the catalysts for the social unrest that caused a brutal decade-long civil war. Some have gone far enough to call it the “first climate war.”

However, in both of these cases, the political and social unrest contributing to these conflicts are deep and complex. Climate change certainly isn’t the sole driver — but it is one that we know will get considerably worse if we don’t act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions sharply.

Without a more integrated approach to the three D’s of foreign policy — diplomacy, development and defense — governments may find it difficult to get out ahead of problems.

“It is not only about hard security, about hard military power anymore. But you can prevent conflicts if you have smart development and sustainability policies in place if you preemptively invest and make sure that conflicts don’t even rise,” says Michael Werz, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, in an interview on the Climate Progress podcast.

Werz recently co-authored a report on the issue, which is the first in a series of reports exploring the link between climate, migration and conflict in different areas of the world.

“The trajectories that we can observe are pointing in the same direction, which means there is a need to do something. And the fact that we’re not entirely certain about the scientific relation between climate change, human mobility and conflict does not mean that we do not have to act. It means the opposite: uncertainty should be a driver for action, and not vice versa.”

So what might that new national security framework look like exactly? We’ll talk with Werz about how the international community can prepare for the climate-conflict nexus — even with so many unanswered questions.

To listen, play the podcast above.

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15 Responses to Podcast: We Must Address the Climate-Security Nexus

  1. Leif says:

    Perhaps we cannot be certain of any one event being caused by climate change, however we can be certain that climate change does mean changes. So far the majority of observations have pointed to the negative side, which far outweigh any possible benefits. Why is it taking so long to move? Could it be entrenched money? Do we owe them something that I am not aware of? Have they shown the slightest bit of remorse when we or our cities crumble? Has Romney lost any sleep when he closed factories in communities? (Well perhaps he had to stay up to count more money…) I say change the rules. I do not like the way that game has turned out. They don’t want a Green Awakening Economy, fine, I don’t want to help them maintain the ecocidal fossil economy. The tin hats have set the stage when they got a rule to stop all taxpayer money going to abortion. I want a rule stopping any of my tax money going the ecocidal fossil industry. NOW!

  2. prokaryotes says:

    The first rule of climate security is to go aggressively after the climate deniers, which deliberately create false climate change data or which prevent scientist from doing their job.

    We know who the merchants of doubt are. That we did not acted before shows the flaws and weakness of our todays situation. Though i’m not sure about current developments, but i’m optimistic.

    But i’m not so optimistic when i look at the traffic and fossil fuel combustion – almost everywhere on the planet, every single day. The time when we start serious actions, might be to late then.

    Also there is no other Plan B, because you can not count that somehow a small percentage of the population, some how sit this climate change out. They might survive a bit longer, but later they lack the manpower to make a dent.

    Mandatory actions
    1.) Shut down fossil combustion/exploration asap.
    2.) Start world wide large scale biochar production
    3.) Transition to the clean economy – this too, world wide.

    If we help the developing world to sequester carbon, we help fight poverty and stabilize – prevent later climate refugees. And we need these people to sequester carbon.

  3. Mark Shapiro says:

    “Why is it taking so long to move? Could it be entrenched money? ”

    YES! That’s the whole point of Joe’s (and others’) blog. You and I are already convinced. Convincing another 3 billion people in the teeth of $4 trillion fossil fuel industry is hard work.

    Very hard work.

    Let’s keep at it.

  4. prokaryotes says:

    Obama just mentioned to prevent climate change when talking about national security…

  5. prokaryotes says:

    David Roberts
    The military is *much* more realistic about climate change than most in Congress or most voters. That’s why they applauded Obama saying it.!/drgrist/status/162669453979561984

  6. Mike Roddy says:

    “Security” is important, but it’s a euphemism for darker and more dangerous events. Better to just come out and say what we will have to address when the climate spins out of control: state disintegration, migration, and random violence. Afghanistan is the future.

  7. prokaryotes says:

    Probably a better example are catastrophic events, like after Kathrina. When you have people in shelters, like when sitting in the Superdome. When sanitary is bad, food and drinking water becomes scarce and slowly anarchy is breaking lose. When people start to fight for survival. Then even with the best army you cannot do much unless you have resources.

    Though it is a big plus when you have renewable energy generation handy.

    Todays civilization can sustain such events maybe for 3 month, then resources are gone. After this civilization collapse is in progress. At this stage any affords to do something about climate change is doomed.

  8. perceptiventity says:

    I am sure regular viamiliar with his prognosis but for those who haven’t

    Climate Wars are upon us ?

  9. perceptiventity says:

    Regular visitors to this blog are familiar with his book I meant to type.

    Same topic but in better quality

    “Global warming is moving much more quickly than scientists thought it would. Even if the biggest current and prospective emitters – the United States, China and India – were to slam on the brakes today, the earth would continue to heat up for decades. At best, we may be able to slow things down and deal with the consequences, without social and political breakdown. Gwynne Dyer examines several radical short-and medium-term measures now being considered – all of them controversial.”

    Not much has changed since 2008 in our policies to prevent conflicts from happening. Will it ever ?

  10. Christopher S. Johnson says:

    Congrats on progressing with the Podcast. It is first rate!

  11. Steve says:

    This is a great 3-part series and gets a foot in the door with much wider audiences because it cites US military concerns and lays the cards on the table without getting bogged down on polarizing politics… I’d recommend everyone take the time to listen and then refer it to others outside the already-committed-to-the-cause circle of bloggers.

  12. Bill G says:

    We will take no action until there is a “Pearl Harbor” sized event. That’s just the way we operate. It happened with the lead up to WWII. Even England sitting right next to Hitler and watching him rise, did no preparation. People told themselves “No, that can’t happen. He wouldn’t do that, would he?” Only after Pearl Harbor did we put the pedal to the metal.

    Of course, with global warming its very late. We should have listened to Dr. Alvin Weinberg who predicted in the 70’s
    what is happening now with amazing accuracy.

    What will be the Pearl Harbor, do you think? The Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica suddenly slipping into the sea submerging coastal Florida and many other places? Maybe a really severe world wide heat wave as hit Russia and Texas – only this time nearly everywhere at once? Maybe a solar dimming event whereby a world depression causes all the junk we put in the atmosphere (soot, dust) to fall out thus rapidly heating the globe?

    Can’t wait to find out. We may as well get our popcorn and get ready for the show.