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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?

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.

November 10, 2010
by The Collaborative Institute for Oceans, Climate and Security (CIOCS)
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Increasing Concern Over Climate Change as National Security Threat

With the recent elections, Congress appears poised for an even further shift away from climate change legislation. Republican strategist Karl Rove, for one, is rejoicing that "climate is gone," in favor of profit-seeking practices that jeopardize health and security.

However, as depicted in Bruce Lieberman’s posting "Continuing Concerns Over Implications Of Climate Change for National Security," climate change is increasingly being recognized for its potential threat to human and national security:

"At a recent briefing on Capitol Hill, far from the alert attention of mainstream news organizations, retired General Anthony Zinni warned that the global loss of forests, freshwater, fish and arable land is driving political instability and threatening global security.

‘Whether it be climate change, whether it is the disruption of the environment in other ways … we’re going to see more failed and incapable states,’ said Zinni, a former Commander in Chief of the U.S. Central Command.

The briefing, hosted by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Center for a New American Security, marked one of a number of recent discussions across the nation’s capital, across the nation, and overseas about how policy thinkers and military planners are viewing continued climate change as a national security issue." 

Where is the disconnect between government and military thought-leaders? What can the armed services do to counteract increased security threats from climate change when national policies do not reflect a sense of urgency?

Also be sure to check out "Climate Change A Growing Concern for U.S. Navy."

To get more info on events and other news, sign up for the CIOCS listserv by emailing CIOCS@umb.edu.


 

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