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There is need for the European Union to increase its awareness on the threats to international security. This is because international security is increasingly becoming vulnerable to new threats. One of the emerging threats to international security is climate change. It has varied effects, some of which seem unrelated to international security. Nevertheless, the effects of climate change have led to tension and conflict between countries. At times, these tensions have escalated to full-blown wars. The purpose of this report is to highlight the threats of climate change to international security, and how these threats concern the EU.
International security and climate change
Climate change is largely perceived as a phenomenon which only affects the natural environment. While there is truth in the statement, climate change has multiple dimensions, most of which are unknown to many. Climate change results in humanitarian crises in many parts of the world. A global warming cause flood, increases desertification especially developing country, and melts the ice caps, among other occurrences, which makes societies vulnerable to humanitarian assistance.
Additionally, climate change is evolving into a political issue. Many governments use climate change as a political tool with which to influence international treaties and agreements. This also implies that climate change also affects international relations as well. While all these dimensions are vital, it is the manner in which climate change affects international security that is a matter of urgent concern. Climate change is increasingly becoming a threat to international security. Climate change has been termed as a multiplier to the threats associated with international security (European Commission, 2008).
It is imperative to highlight how international security is affected by climate change1. However, it is also equally important to highlight how the relationship between international security and climate change is of concern to the European Union. The effects of climate change are already being felt in many parts of the world including the countries within the European Union (European Commission, 2008). One of the major effects of climate change is increased expenditure on issues related to global warming.
As a result, countries most affected by climate change are increasingly blaming industrialized nations for causing, and doing nothing to stop unprecedented climate change. It is imperative to state that the European Union is home to a majority of the world heavyweight industries. There may not seem to be a direct link between industrialization, climate change, international security and the achievement of some of the development agenda such as Millennium Development Goals. However, climate change is reversing the gains made towards the achievement of MDGs.
Effects of climate change such as global warming and floods, lead to food insecurity as well as poor health. Additionally, climate change causes dwindling of natural resources. This increases competition for these resources, causing tensions between communities. Since the European Union is a signatory to major peace and development treaties such as the Millennium Development Goal initiative, climate change as a threat to international security is thus an issue of priority to the European Council (Quille, 2004).
Threats of climate change on international security
Having demonstrated how the relationships between climate change and international security concern the European Union, it is imperative to highlight, albeit briefly, how climate change threatens international security. Fellow delegates, it is important to underscore that while the relation between climate change and international security has far reaching effects, some of them seem unrelated to international security in practice (European Commission, 2008).
However, there exists evidence in the recent past to support this. For instance, governance as well as economic cost of climate change may seem unrelated to international security. To demonstrate the linkage, it is imperative to consider these issues from the perspectives highlighted below.
To understand the issues surrounding governance and international security well, it is imperative to highlight the fact that many governments are signatories to international governance treaties and agreements. International governance concerns the agreements made between states especially on sharing of transnational resources. This creates a sense of interdependence between states.
Climate change does have severe effects on natural resources. This has no direct influence on international security (Emanuel, 2005). However, countries which share resources are affected differentially; some countries suffer the effects of climate change more than others. In severe cases, this leads to a sense of mistrust, resentment, political and diplomatic tensions. This escalates international security concerns (European Commission, 2008).
Similarly, the economic cost of climate change does not seem to have a direct link with international security. As explained earlier, climate change leads to global warming. Global warming effectively leads to rise in global temperatures, which melts ice on ice caps. This further leads to the increase in the volume of water in major water bodies, especially those originating from near ice caps. As a result, pollution of rivers, seas and oceans occurs. This seems a long sequence of events.
However, the effects are felt by some of the world’s largest cities, oil refineries, ports and other vital resources located along rivers, lakes and oceans. It is imperative to state that governments are spending up to about 20 percent of the world GDP on efforts to protect these resources from the effects of global warming (Stern, 2007). Since climate change emanates from activities conducted from across borders, this is creating tensions between affected countries.
While the threats mentioned above involve a long sequence of events, others are a bit direct. However, this does not mean that they are less significant; each of this threat is significant to international security in its own unique way. In some instances, severe climate changes lead to severe environmental degradation. As a result, communities living in severely affected areas are forced to migrate, sometime across borders.
While the UN estimates that by the year 2020 the number of environmental migrants will be in tens of millions, the phenomenon is already causing tensions between affected countries (Barnett and Adger, 2007). Countries of destination are crying foul since they say that environmental emigrants increase pressure on their already strained resources. Some of them have called for international bodies to impose penalties on countries that mismanage their resources, while others are calling for restriction of cross border environmental migration2.
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On the other hand, countries of origin are calling for unlimited restriction on environmental emigrants. This has already caused tensions between affected countries (Barnett and Adger, 2007). Additionally, the European Union is one of the target environmental emigration destinations. With the eurozone crisis3 looming, countries within the European Union are likely to experience the pressure of environmental emigration. This is expected to increase political and diplomatic tension between countries of origin and EU member states (European Commission, 2008).
Competition for exploitation of energy resources especially hydrocarbons is of significant concern to international security. Majority of the hydrocarbon reserves are located in areas that are extremely vulnerable to effects of climate change. These resources include gas and crude oil, vital commodities that are increasingly becoming rare due to effects of climate change. Increased competition for these resources is characteristic of an ever increasing demand. As such, developed countries, from which much of the demand comes from, have rushed to gain control of these resources.
This has led to the rise of tension between competing countries. In extreme cases, such tensions have escalated into fully blown wars. This is a matter that concerns the EU since not only is it home to most of the world major industries but also has a significant demand for oil and natural gas. To cement its position in the world economy, the EU has developed energy security policy, which equips the EU with necessary legal power to control vast deposits of oil and natural gas. This will definitely lead to escalated tension between the EU and other competing countries (European Commission, 2008).
This report would not be complete if no effort is made to mention a few practical examples. To begin with, it is imperative to consider the effects of climate change in Africa. Africa is one of the regions most hit by effects of climate change. The situation in West Africa, Darfur and the Horn of Africa is a testimony to this. Millions of environmental emigrants come from these regions, with EU being one of the possible destinations. With the euro zone crisis biting hard, no European countries is ready to add to its economic burden by welcoming environmental immigrants. This is already causing international tension between the EU and affected countries (Stern, 2007).
Additionally, countries such as Kyrgyzstan have experienced the adverse effects of climate change; she has lost more than 4000 glaciers to global warming. Kyrgyzstan is amongst key economic and political strategic partners for the EU. Kyrgyzstan feels aggrieved since she blames the loss of her natural resources to industrial activities in mainland Europe.
This has increased tension between her and the EU and is an area of potential intensified conflict in the near future. Most significantly, the rush towards control and exploitation of hydrocarbon in the arctic region4 has set the ground for a potential war. Given that Russia has claimed the region as its own by planting a flag in the North Pole, this is already threatening the international security within the EU (European Commission, 2008).
The threat of climate change to international security is a matter of priority for the EU. This thus begs the question on what role the European Council needs to play to mitigate the negative effects of climate change on international security. One of the most vital roles is to intensify research activities in the role of climate change in international security. The European Council needs to harmonize intergovernmental and inter organizations research activities with the aim of sharing information.
This will enable EU member states build a shared knowledge base. Additionally, the EU needs to be actively involved in negotiation on climate change. Most importantly the EU needs to incorporate anti-climate change policies as part of its development agenda. Combined, these activities will go along way in reducing chances of conflict emanating from climate change issues.
Barnett, J. and Adger, W. (2007). Climate change, human security and violent conflict.
Emanuel, K. (2005). Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years. Nature 436 (7051): 686–8.
European Commission. (2008). Climate change and international security.
Quille, G. (2004). The European security strategy: A framework for EU security interests? International Peacekeeping 11(3): 422-438.
Stern, N. (2007). Economics of climate change: The Stern review. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
1 This implies issues that concern mutual survivability between nations
2 Movement of people from one region to another due to environmental hazards
3 Debt crisis within the European Union where economies are almost crippled by large foreign debts
4 The Arctic Region has experienced significant loss of ice due to climate changes, indicating a possibility of there having vast deposits of crude oil and natural gas.