The Collaborative Institute

Building Connections

January 31, 2012
by The Collaborative Institute for Oceans, Climate and Security (CIOCS)
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Texas Drought the Product of Climate Change?

Is the 2011 Texas drought the product of climate change? NASA’s James Hansen and his colleagues say it is. Most scientists choose not to link specific weather events to climate change trends, but they’ve gathered data they say shows that the 2011 heat wave that hit both Texas and Oklahoma was “a consequence of global warming because their likelihood was negligible prior to the recent rapid global warming.” Using over 50 years’ worth of temperature data, the group feels they can definitively argue that the heat wave in Texas and Oklahoma wouldn’t have occurred without global warming.

Even if you’re not ready to argue that this particular incident is a direct result of climate change, it is easy to see the enormous ramifications of the heat wave for Texas and how these effects will be felt outside the Lone Star State. Certain areas are now trucking in water as their wells run dry and as they make major decisions regarding future water use, equipment, and needs. Andrew Freedman discusses how rice production may face unprecedented restrictions, cuts and even shutdowns with the current water shortage. And it’s not just rice that’s feeling the squeeze:

“The 2011-12 drought ranks as the state’s most intense one-year drought since records began in 1895. The drought has had major impacts on agriculture in the Lone Star State, particularly for cattle ranchers, causing at least $5.2 billion in agricultural losses during 2011. This includes $1.8 billion in cotton losses, $750 million in lost hay production, and $243 million in wheat losses.” Continue Reading →

July 21, 2011
by The Collaborative Institute for Oceans, Climate and Security (CIOCS)
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Climate Change and Human Security

The Collaborative Institute works consistently to identify and make clear the connections between climate change and human security, as well as the impact of climate change on oceans and what that means for human health and security. Likewise, global leaders are speaking and acting to bring these issues to the forefront.

At the 6587. meeting of the Security Council, held on 20 July 2011, in connection with the Council’s consideration of impact of climate change under the item entitled “Maintenance of international peace and security,” the President of the Security Council made a  statement on behalf of the Council that begins:

“The Security Council reaffirms its primary responsibility under the Charter of the United Nations for the maintenance of international peace and security. The Council stresses the importance of establishing strategies of conflict prevention.

The Security Council recognizes the responsibility for sustainable development issues, including climate change, conferred upon the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council.”

Read the full statement here.

This official statement coincides with statements by Achim Steiner from the UN Environment Programme who stated that climate change would also “exponentially” increase the scale of natural disasters. In addressing the UN Security Council during a debate on the impact of climate change on international security and peace, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that, “Extreme weather events continue to grow more frequent and intense in rich and poor countries alike, not only devastating lives, but also infrastructure, institutions, and budgets – an unholy brew which can create dangerous security vacuums.”

Despite these strong statements from UN officials urging the Security Council to act in response to climate change, not all members of the Council agree including climate change on the Council agenda. According to one report, “US ambassador Susan Rice said Washington strongly believed the council ‘has an essential responsibility to address the clear-cut peace and security implications of a changing climate,’ and should ‘start now.'” The report goes on to state:

“But Russian envoy Alexander Pankin said Moscow was “sceptical” about attempts to put the implications of climate change on the council’s agenda, which is defined as dealing with threats to international peace and security.

‘We believe that involving the security council in a regular review of the issue of climate change will not bring any added value whatsoever and will merely lead to further increased politicisation of this issue and increased disagreements between countries,’ he said.

Western diplomats said Russia’s statement reflected long-standing concerns about security council agenda “creep.””

Should the Security Council investigate the connections between climate change and human security? Would this leader to “increased politicization” or open channels of communication amongst nations?

June 30, 2011
by The Collaborative Institute for Oceans, Climate and Security (CIOCS)
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Food Security and Climate Change

At CIOCS we are working to make connections between climate change, human security and the world’s oceans. Recently, there’s been plenty of news about our warming planet and the impact this has on food security, which relates directly to human security. As Justin Gillis shows in this NY Times article from early June, consumption of basic food items is increasing while production is stagnant or even decreasing. This difference leads to higher food prices, which has a direct impact on social conditions and can lead to volatile situations, as seen in recent years. As Gillis articulates, science has helped show that climate change is helping to destabilize the food system. As climate changes, so do weather patterns. Changing “norms” mean that agriculture has to adapt, while extreme weather and natural disasters disrupt production altogether. All of these changes have put an increased strain on water supplies and on the farmers themselves. The article demonstrates how agricultural production has changed in past decades, often in response to changing technology and demands. As agricultural demands and climate change, people worldwide may experience more unstable social conditions, such as poverty, food or water shortages, or even violence.

Thomas Friedman’s recent Op-Ed piece helps put this increased strain in another light. He breaks down a recent book by Paul Gilding, a veteran Australian environmentalist-entrepreneur, called The Great Disruption: Why the Climate Crisis Will Bring On the End of Shopping and the Birth of a New World. Gilding’s work shows that currently humans are using about 1.5 earths at the current global growth rates. However, we only have one planet. Essentially, we’re working at 150% of our sustainable capacity. Gilding helps show how changes are connected:

“If you cut down more trees than you grow, you run out of trees,” writes Gilding. “If you put additional nitrogen into a water system, you change the type and quantity of life that water can support. If you thicken the Earth’s CO2 blanket, the Earth gets warmer. If you do all these and many more things at once, you change the way the whole system of planet Earth behaves, with social, economic, and life support impacts. This is not speculation; this is high school science.”

In a follow-up article, Gillis poses the question, based on all the information given in the first article: “What do we need to do?” He provides a run-down of ongoing research and projects that are helping to determine answers to that very question. Specifically, he mentions the Beddington Report which examines the need for increased intensive agricultural, but with respect to economically and environmentally sustainable practices. Science and agriculture are working to determine how things are changing and what can be done to adapt or possibly turn things around.

As all of these articles demonstrate, the changing climate has a direct impact on human life and security, by impacting food supplies and the ability to sustain life through agriculture. Just as importantly, these changes impact oceans on earth, as well. 53% of the United States population lives in coastal areas, and many of those residents depend directly on the oceans for their livelihood and personal consumption. Even those who do not live near the coast depend on the oceans for food and other needs. The effects of climate change on weather patterns, the oceans, and, subsequently, human life can be seen in recent events. These events have many lessons to offer regarding preparation and adaptation for human and food security.

February 9, 2011
by The Collaborative Institute for Oceans, Climate and Security (CIOCS)
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Putting Climate Change in the Center

Recently, we’ve been hearing more about how recent extreme weather can contribute to a global food crisis. While it’s difficult to attribute any one major weather event to climate change, Paul Krugman reminds us that it’s necessary to examine the overall pattern.


“As always, you can’t attribute any one weather event to greenhouse gases. But the pattern we’re seeing, with extreme highs and extreme weather in general becoming much more common, is just what you’d expect from climate change.”


Essentially, extreme weather is contributing to major food shortages as crops are destroyed. Water scarcity, along with growing populations, climate change, soil erosion and other factors, place an enormous amount of pressure on production. As the supply dwindles, demand is staying the same or increasing, leading to higher prices around the globe.


Now, we’re seeing links between rising food prices and food shortages, and political instability. Rising food prices are believed to be at least a partial trigger for the recent unrest in Tunisia and Egypt. As countries experience extreme weather, they’ll be more likely to decrease or halt export of vital staple items in order to take care of their own first. Just last summer, Russia stopped wheat exports as fires ravaged the country. These extreme weather events will not always stop short of completely decimating a country or its crops. What happens when extreme weather events prevent countries from providing for its citizens? Will people start leaving their home countries to fulfill basic needs, in search of a safe haven from the destruction? Experts say it’s possible.


“Forecasts of global migration related to environmental factors range from 150 million to 300 million people by the middle of this century, the Asian Development Bank said Monday, and the Asia-Pacific region is expected to be at the epicenter of this trend.”


At the center of these debates about human security, food shortage and political instability lies an important factor: climate change. As the earth continues to change, we’ll see increasing instances of extreme weather events, leading to more destruction and greater instability.

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