Climate Change and its Security Implications

Climate Change and its Security Implications

Source: Springer, 2016

Author(s): Tracey Skillington

Countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan

Topics: Climate Change, Conflict Causes, Renewable Resources

Added: 08/02/2017


A total of 1.2 billion people worldwide reside in states likely to experience some form of ‘climate-induced political instability’ in the decades ahead (International Alert 2007: 3, 2009: 8, 2015: 1). New patterns of extreme weather conditions such as intense heat waves, prolonged drought, or storm surges are not only destructive in ecological terms. They also adversely affect social relations among those forced to compete for depleting reserves of fresh water and food. In areas as diverse as the southern Sindh Province in Pakistan, the northern Balkh region of Afghanistan, or the southern regions of Somalia, tensions are fuelled by the sharp decline in levels of rainfall, increased risk of seasonal drought, and the unequal distribution of water rights. The risk of conflict in these areas over scarce resource supplies and their mismanagement is never too far away (see The Robert S. Strauss Center, Social Conflict in Africa Database (SCAD) 2011). Yet as research conducted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) (2009) reveals, less than a quarter of peace negotiations aiming to resolve conflicts linked to natural resources to date have addressed resource management mechanisms.1 Desertification is proving to be another major initiator of hostility. In Africa’s Sahel region, desertification is steadily reducing the availability of cultivatable land, leading to more frequent clashes between herders and farmers (see International Alert 2009: 8). In Darfur, deserts have spread southwards by an average of 100 kilometres over the last four decades. Together with a decline in patterns of rainfall, as well as the loss of nearly 12 % of forest cover, these developments have contributed to a notable deterioration in communal relations (see Sudan Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment 2007). As Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme’s investigation of the causes of conflict in Sudan (2007) points out, uncontrolled depletion of natural resources such as water, soil, and forests, allied with other climate change impacts, is not just a tragedy for a few, less fortunately positioned states but ‘a window’ to a wider world beginning to feel the destabilizing effects of growing natural resource scarcity. Similarly, the EU (2009) predicts that scenes of increasing political instability and ‘radicalization’ will spread to other regions as ‘tensions over natural resources and energy supplies’ continue to grow internationally. These occurrences are said to have implications for all in the form of mass migratory movements, a greater incidence of regional conflicts, terrorist activity, and other forms of violence in the decades ahead (see also the US Department of Defense in its 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review of US State Defense Strategies and Priorities, p. 8).


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