Managing Cascading Security Implications of Climate Change
April 22, 2020 | FP Analytics Special Report
In 2010, the U.S. Department of Defense identified climate change as a key threat to global stability that is contributing to poverty, food and water scarcity, environmental degradation, and the weakening of already fragile states. These compounding factors have also spurred increased voluntary and forced migration. That was a decade ago. The DoD’s assessment reflects what has since become increasingly acknowledged among security experts, international institutions, and climate scientists: that climate change is a threat multiplier that has no boundaries. Rising global temperatures, and the attendant growing stress on natural resources, particularly water, and agricultural productivity, are threatening global security at multiple levels, including by:
- Exacerbating resource scarcity that threatens to undermine government legitimacy and regional stability;
- Enabling weaponization of vital water infrastructure, creating new terrorist threats; and
- Stoking regional instability that is contributing to growing incidence of environmental migration.
These multivariate security threats require deeper understanding, strategic planning, and transnational cooperation among the public, private, and non-governmental sectors in order to design and implement effective mitigation and adaptation measures at scale.
However, despite the United Nations’ (UN) and other multilateral institutions’ stated commitments to tackling climate change, including by slashing emissions, divesting from fossil fuels, and broader decarbonization measures, the Conference of Parties (COP) process has languished, and populist leaders are rolling back environmental protections and doubling down on fossil fuel industries, notably coal. Despite unprecedented levels of climate data and scientific analysis enabling leaders to foresee and plan for these risks, many national action plans remain hamstrung, constrained by political realities and other urgent priorities. Meanwhile, the fires continue to burn, and climate-related disasters rage on.
The current global economic environment and fragility of populations, once again made clear by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, make addressing these manifold, interconnected risks ever more urgent, requiring thoughtful diplomacy and clear, strategic planning. This FP Analytics Special Report is a call to action for all stakeholders to do just that.