The Collaborative Institute

Building Connections

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 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.

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