Climate Change and Border Conflicts – Military Researchers’ Two Cents

Those concerned with border-related conflicts and those concerned with climate change may, if the Center for Naval Analysis is correct, share some unexpected common ground. The Center, an American military-research institute, reported that climate change has the potential to multiply instability in some of the world’s already volatile regions. The report is aptly named: “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change.” It begins, “…Global climate change presents a new and very different type of national security challenge.”

Boundaries between countries that are drawn based on topographic landmarks – for example, the boundary between Italy and Switzerland (marked by the ridge of a now-melting glacier) – are changing rapidly as the earth’s topography deteriorates because of global warming. This deterioration could have a devastating effect on countries in conflict.
The boundary separating Pakistan from India’s disputed Kashmir region is a prime example of how climate change may exacerbate tensions in the area, says The Economist, referencing the Center’s report. Experts believe, as the glaciers in Kashmir melt, they will become additional objects of the 50-year-and-running dispute between the countries.
Other examples? Arctic sea ice is melting, making stretches of seabed accessible – a resource for which competing groups may vie. The still-undefined Chile-Argentina borderline in the southern Patagonian ice fields will be impacted by changing sea levels. Rising sea levels are also corroding coastlines in many South and South-East Asian countries, forcing residents to flee. (India has already constructed fencing to curb illegal immigration across its borders.) Emigrants fleeing increasingly marginalized cropland in their homelands could face military action should they enter other countries illegally. The list could go on and on.
Can these results of climate change be prevented? The report concludes with its several recommendations: the impact of climate change on national security should be fully integrated into national defense strategies, and the U.S. should commit to a stronger role in the international community in curbing climate change.

Sarah Harper is a professional writer based in San Francisco, California. Her interests include sustainability, government policy, and international politics. In her free time, Sarah enjoys toying with the idea of holistic health, overanalysis, and plotting world exploration.

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