Security Experts Identify 12 Likely Triggers of War as the Planet Warms
Climate change isn’t just causing glaciers to melt, sea levels to rise and forests to set fire. It has becoming increasingly evident that Earth’s rising temperatures also threatens international security.
In fact, an analysis released Friday by the Center for Climate and Security has identified 12 “epicenters,” or categories, where the world’s rising temperatures could trigger major global conflict.
“Any one of the climate and security epicenters can be disruptive,” said Caitlin Werrell, co-president of the Center for Climate and Security and editor of the report, Epicenters of Climate and Security: The New Geostrategic Landscape of the Anthropocene. “Taken together, however, these epicenters can present a serious challenge to international security as we understand it.”
The categories include eroding state sovereignty, low-lying nations going underwater, as well as the disruption in the global coffee trade that employs 125 million people worldwide.
Previous studies have identified how terrorist groups in certain regions are taking advantage of increasingly scarce natural resources such as water and food as a “weapon of war.” Additionally, a U.S. military report from 2014 called climate change a “catalyst for conflict” and a “threat multiplier.” President Obama once said that “no challenge poses a great threat than climate change, and it’s an “immediate risk to our national security.”
Meanwhile, President Trump and many top officials in his administration brush off or reject the science of climate change. Conservative media has also mocked the idea that climate change is related to the growth of terrorism. And let’s not forget Trump’s middle finger to the world when he dropped the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement, which has been signed by every nation on Earth except war-torn Syria and Nicaragua, which didn’t think the accord was strong enough.
The Center for Climate and Security report stresses why mitigating climate change should be the highest priority for governments and institutions around the world.
“This report demonstrates the kind of cross-sectorial thinking needed to anticipate and mitigate climate-related systemic risks—risks that will be disruptive at local, national, regional and global levels,” said Francesco Femia, co-president of the Center for Climate and Security and editor of the report. “Security risks thousands of miles away can have an effect on us at home. Understanding that can help advance preventive rather than reactive solutions.”
These are the 12 epicenters identified by the security experts in the report:
1. Eroding State Sovereignty: An inability to absorb the stresses of a rapidly-changing climate may erode state sovereignty (Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell);
2. Disappearing Nations: Many low-lying nations are in danger of being completely submerged by rising seas (Andrew Holland and Esther Babson);
3. Conflict Over Melting Water Towers: Climate change can increase tensions and conflict among the 4 billion people dependent on mountain “water towers” (Troy Sternberg);
4. Conflict Over Fisheries: A warming ocean is driving critical fish stocks into contested waters, contributing to conflict between states (Michael Thomas);
5. Tensions in a Melting Arctic: Increased activity in a melting Arctic raises new security and geopolitical risks (Katarzyna Zysk and David Titley);
6. Weaponized Water: As climate change exacerbates water stress, non-state actors, including international terrorist organizations, are increasingly using water as a weapon (Marcus King and Julia Burnell);
7. Disrupted Strategic Trade Routes: Climate change will place strains on maritime straits that are critical for global trade and security (Adam H. Goldstein and Constantine Samaras);
8. Compromised Coffee Trade: Climate change may also disrupt critical global trading networks, like the coffee trade. which currently supports 125 million people worldwide (Shiloh Fetzek);
9. More (and Worse) Pandemics: Climate change may increase the likelihood and range of pandemics, which could threaten global security (Kaleem Hawa);
10. Flooded Coastal Megacities: Rapidly expanding coastal megacities are threatened by climate impacts like sea level rise, which can destabilize nations (Janani Vivekenanda and Neil Bhatiya);
11. Increased Displacement and Migration: Climate change is becoming a more significant driver of migration and displacement (Robert McLeman);
12. Enhanced Nuclear Risks: Climate change, nuclear security, and policies that are not sensitive to both simultaneously, can increase regional and global security threats (Christine Parthemore)
Here is a video introduction to the report: