The Collaborative Institute

Building Connections

February 28, 2011
by The Collaborative Institute for Oceans, Climate and Security (CIOCS)
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Managing the Risks Associated with Climate Change

Recently, UN Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres linked current unrest in areas like the Middle East and North Africa to the effects of climate change, such as drought, short water supplies and decreased crop yields. Ms. Figueres stated, “It is alarming to admit that if the community of nations is unable to fully stabilize climate change, it will threaten where we can live, where and how we grow food and where we can find water. In other words, it will threaten the basic foundation – the very stability on which humanity has built its existence.” Ms. Figueres emphasized the need for the global community to take urgent action on climate change. Factors such as more frequent and severe natural disasters, heat waves and drought, widespread disease and rising sea levels, among others, will mean that “climate change, especially if left unabated, threatens to increase poverty and overwhelm the capacity of governments to meet the basic needs of their people, which could well contribute to the emergency, spread and longevity of conflict.”

Research supports Ms. Figueres’ argument regarding the increased risks associated with climate change. For instance, cholera was believed to be a human-driven disease but was recently linked to environmental changes as well. By examining this deadly disease from a new angle, it may be possible to “help minimize cholera’s damage,” even potentially leading to an early warning system for cholera.

Climate change also has consequences on food supply- driving at the very nature of human survival. In Guyana, the government and rice farmers are preparing themselves for the future by examining the food security issues. By cultivating different varieties of rice and moving rice fields, Guyana is trying to stay ahead of the climate change curve.

Given the complex effects of climate change, and large amount of uncertainty regarding the future challenges, there is wisdown in planning ahead. The PEW Research Center released a new report that makes this very argument. In Degrees of Risk: Defining Risk Management Framework for Climate Security, the report recommends using “a risk management approach to break logjams and tackle climate change.” This risk management approach has been valuable for national security and the military and easily applies to the effects of climate change. “Risk management provides a systematic way to consider threats and vulnerabilities, ‘knowns and unknowns’ and to take steps to minimize risk.”

Although we may not know the exact effects that will be coming as a result of changing climate, we can prepare for the worst, as well as work to reverse the changes. Jay Gulledge and Nick Mabey put it this way:

“When it comes to climate change, uncertainty must not be a barrier to action. Uncertainty doesn’t mean we know nothing; just that we do not know precisely what the future may hold in a given place at a given time. But we have a good handle on what the risks of climate change look like. Will the oceans rise by two feet or six? Will global average temperatures rise by two degrees, or five? Other weighty public policy decisions– from military procurement to interest rates to financial system regulation – are taken under far higher uncertainty than exists when it comes to climate change science.”

Preparation is a necessary and vital response to changing climate. Human security may prove to depend upon the plans and actions that societies take now.

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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