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Report: Climate Change Poses Security Risks

GinaMarie headshotWords by Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Energy & Environment
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President Barack Obama has made climate change one of the priorities of his presidency. Given the current congressional climate where Republicans have control of both legislative chambers, Obama has had to take action on climate change through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

During a recent interview with British naturalist David Attenborough, the president acknowledged that climate change action requires a global solution. “If just one country is doing the right thing, but other countries are not, then we’re not going to solve the problem. We’re going to have to have a global solution to this,” he said.

Obama is smart to make climate change a priority, as a recent independent report commissioned by G7 members shows. “Climate change is a global threat to security in the 21st century,” the report states. Quick action is needed to limit the future risks that climate change poses.

What are those future risks? The report identifies seven of them, and calls them “compound climate-fragility risks.” Let’s take a closer look at those risks:

1. Local resource competition


Climate change puts pressure on natural resources, and competition over them causes instability and could even lead to violent conflict. Water and arable land will be particularly “constrained in some regions,” the report warns. However, equitable and effective natural resource management can help.

2. Livelihood insecurity and migration


People who depend on natural resources to make a living will experience increased insecurity as climate change impacts natural resources. That might even cause some folks to migrate or turn to illegal sources of income.

3. Extreme weather events and disasters


Thanks to climate change, there will be more extreme weather events and that will put make people more vulnerable. As the report puts it, “The relationship between disasters and fragility is often mutually reinforcing.” That makes disaster risk reduction and effective disaster management efforts very important.

4. Volatile food prices and provision


Natural resources are not the only thing that will be impacted by climate change. Food production will be also impacted. Yields are “highly likely” to decrease due to climate change, and food production in many areas will be disrupted.

5. Trans-boundary water management


Climate change will put a stress on water supplies and that is likely to cause tensions with trans-boundary waters. However, there is an opportunity for collaboration between stakeholders and governments.

6. Sea-level rise and coastal degradation


As sea levels rise, low-lying areas will be in danger of floods which will cause social disruption, displacement and migration. The economic and physical viability of low-lying areas is threatened by rising sea levels.

7. Unintended effects of climate policy


There is a risk of “unintended negative effects” of climate change policy, particularly in fragile areas. For example, water conflicts could disrupt local livelihoods. Extreme weather events could cause market instability.

Mitigating climate change is our best bet


The report lists recommendations to “diminish” the threats these risks pose. The best way to diminish them is to mitigate climate change, the authors conclude.

Three key policy sectors are identified to help states and societies mitigate climate change: climate change adaptation programs, development and humanitarian aid programs, and peace-building and conflict prevention programs.

Will countries of the world unite to mitigate climate change? Replacing the Kyoto Protocol has proved to be difficult. However, there are signs that the world is finally realizing just how serious climate change is and the importance of mitigating it. Politco recently reported that China appears to be ready to set a more ambitious climate change policy. If China does move up its timeline for peaking carbon emissions, the whole world will be better off as it is the No. 1 emitter of greenhouse gases.

Image credit: Flickr/The U.S. Army

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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