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Climate Change Warnings & International Security

Climate Change & International Security - European Commission Report Alarming

By Andreas von Warburg – Reporting from New York

Comment on this and other reports on International Agencies at The Gstaad Project

The risks posed by climate change are real and its impacts are already taking place. The latest report of the European Commission is crudely honest and, quite frankly, one of the most alarming, with grave repercussions on international security.

“Unmitigated climate change beyond 2ºC will lead to unprecedented security scenarios, as it is likely to trigger a number of tipping points that would lead to further accelerated, irreversible and largely unpredictable climate changes,” reads the report, a study commissioned to the EU High Representative, Javier Solana, and the European Commission by the European Council. “Investment in mitigation to avoid such scenarios, as well as ways to adapt to the unavoidable should go hand in hand with addressing the international security threats created by climate change; both should be viewed as part of preventive security policy.”

The paper cites recent findings by the United Nations’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which demonstrate that even if by 2050 emissions would be reduced to below half of 1990 levels, a temperature rise of up to 2ºC above pre-industrial levels will be difficult to avoid. “Such a temperature increase will pose serious security risks that would increase if warming continues,” the report states.

The EU report focuses on the impact of climate change on international security and considers the impact of these international security consequences for Europe’s own security, and how the EU should respond.

“Climate change is best viewed as a threat multiplier which exacerbates existing trends, tensions and instability,” the paper continues. “The core challenge is that climate change threatens to overburden states and regions which are already fragile and conflict prone. It is important to recognise that the risks are not just of a humanitarian nature; they also include political and security risks that directly affect European interests.”

In line with the concept of human security, the paper makes clear that many issues related to the impact of climate change on international security are interlinked and require comprehensive policy responses. It is a burden that is putting at a considerable risk the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and has the power to wipe out years of development efforts.

The report identifies the main threats posed by climate change and global warming: the reduction arable land and conflicts over resources and energy supplies; widespread shortage of water; a serious economic damage and risk to coastal cities and critical infrastructure; loss of territory and border disputes; and environmentally-induced migration.

“The multilateral system is at risk if the international community fails to address the threats outlined above,” the report states. “Climate change impacts will fuel the politics of resentment between those most responsible for climate change and those most affected by it. Impacts of climate mitigation policies (or policy failures) will thus drive political tension nationally and internationally. The potential rift not only divides North and South but there will also be a South - South dimension particularly as the Chinese and Indian share of global emissions rises. The already burdened international security architecture will be put under increasing pressure.”

The study stressed that the impact of climate change on international security is not a problem of the future but already of today. Even if progress is made in reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases, weather patterns have already changed, global temperatures have already risen and, above all, climate change is already being felt around the globe.

“Climate change is a key element of international relations and will be increasingly so in the coming years, including its security dimension,” concludes the report. “If recognized, it can even become a positive driver for improving and reforming global governance. As it is a global problem, the EU is advocating a multilateral response.”

To read the report in its entirety, please click here.

For more, see The Gstaad Project


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