Climate Change

Climate change will pose greater threat to global security by 2030: Military experts

Forced displacement and scale of natural disasters is likely to increase by 2040, according to survey report

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Friday 06 March 2020

The impact of climate change on water will increase the risk to global security in the next decade, according to a group of international security and military professionals.

The International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS) administered a survey in December 2019 to assess the perceptions of climate security risks among 56 security and military experts and practitioners from across the globe.

The perception analysis was published in a World Climate and Security report, which claimed to be first of its kind.

According to the report, 93 per cent military experts perceived climate change effects on water security would present significant or higher risks to global security by 2030. About 91 per cent perceived those risks would turn severe or catastrophic by 2040.

Conflict, migration to pressure military 

Most respondents perceived that forced displacement and scale of natural disasters would increase by 2040, according to the report. As a result, they projected conflicts within nations to increase. Over 94 per cent respondents feared risk of food security rose due to climate change.

The report highlighted perceptions of regional and inter-state tension escalation. At least 86 per cent experts perceived climate change effects on conflict within nations to present a significant or higher risk to global security by 2040.

The report presented a contemporary overview of global and regional climate and security risks across regions classified as: Africa, the Arctic, Europe, Indo-Asia Pacific, Middle East, North America, South and Central America and the Caribbean.

Even low-warming scenarios would face severe security risks in the next thirty years, the United States National Security, Military and Intelligence Panel of the Center for Climate and Security warned. It added that higher-warming levels could lead to catastrophic and irreversible global security risks.

The report noted that an spike in natural disasters and migration owing to climate change would demand significant military and humanitarian intervention.

Extreme weather impact

According to the report, military experts believed extreme weather events impacted military infrastructure.

In times when countries are struggling with natural disasters, increased political instability and mass displacements could aggravate risk to global security, the report observed.

The IMCCS report talked about Uganda, which sought army support when desert locusts spread across east Africa. In Nigeria, many suffered due to pastoral conflict between herders and farmers between 2016 and 2018.

About 268 million pastoralists in Africa — one-fourth the population — lived on 43 per cent of the continent’s total land mass. However, inadequate policies on climate change increased land-related conflicts.

According to the report, respondents noted that ‘fragile’ states could be twice as burdened due to recurring droughts, floods, etc. Even politically stable countries with underlying and underreported climate vulnerabilities were facing significant or higher security risks.

Proactive approach needed

The report highlighted security practices incorporated by countries such as Australia, NewZealand and the United States in their defence strategy.

For instance, Australia Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, recognised climate change as a ‘threat multiplier’ and ‘burden multiplier’. More than 6,400 defence troops were called out to assist in firefighting efforts during recent bushfires.

Australia’s Royal Commission is preparing a report to regularise use of military in future bushfire operations. It is expected to release by August this year.

New Zealand, too, has recognised climate change as a security risk. The country’s military force believes that climate change has the potential to destabilise areas with weak governance, the report noted.

In Pacific Islands, climate change remains the single greatest threat to livelihood, security and wellbeing of people, according to Boe Declaration on Regional Security.

Gaps in military preparedness

While African Union has recognised climate change as a direct threat to security, gaps in African countries’ armed forces remained. Military preparedness was the need of the hour, the report stated.

The report is a reminder that climate mitigation and adaptation need to be prioritised.  

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Defence ministers comprising India has been asked to add climate and security into its framework of seven Expert Working Groups (EWG). Building knowledge and capacity on climate change was critical, the report said.

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