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Climate Adaptation A Crucial Part of African Peace and Security

Severe_Drought_Famine_in_East_Africa,_April_1,_2011_-_June_30,_2011A report was just released from a two-day workshop held last November: Climate Change Adaptation and Peacebuilding in Africa. The workshop was co-sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Institute for Security Studies, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and U.S. Department of State.

The workshop focused on three areas of linkage between climate change and security in a developing country context:

-The possible roles of climate change on contributing directly and indirectly to conflict and instability;

-The impact of climate change on conflict-affected countries;

-The peace and security threats and opportunities presented by efforts to adapt to climate change.

The aim of the workshop was to identify synergies between climate adaptation and peacebuilding communities. As the report notes: “Many of these debates have included climate/environment, humanitarian development, conflict/ security, and peacebuilding communities, but rarely with all of these communities in active dialogue or collaboration.” The workshop also aimed to share lessons learned and develop concrete actionable next steps for climate change adaptation efforts in fragile countries.

Schuyler Null wrote a good summary of the report’s major findings on the New Security Beat. In Null’s summary he highlights the need for conflict analytics to better incorporate climatic and environmental data:

One reason that environmental security and climate-conflict research are not making the type of impact needed is communications, said Geoff Dabelko, ECSP senior advisor and director of environmental studies at the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs at Ohio University. There isn’t a single methodology for collecting and analyzing data on the linkages between the environment and conflict, he said. Environmental factors do not need to take precedent over other important issues when determining underlying factors of conflict, but they “need to be seen in the mix.”

“It is not very helpful to keep telling society ‘we don’t know,’” one participant said. The community needs new language and new data collection and analysis methods to better communicate why environment, conflict, and peacebuilding links are important.

The workshop outcomes and recommendations are worth reading for their thoroughness.  The report is also a useful indicator of where the climate change adaptation, peace and security communities are, in terms of collaboration, for anyone who works on or is interested in these cross-sectoral issues.

1 Comment

  1. Ola! Climateandsecurity,
    Thanks for that, If western civilization never reigns in carbon emissions, then adaptation and preparing society for climate change becomes crucial. Is the Earth’s climate understood well enough at this point for the expected changes to be known to the point that adaptation without huge social upheaval becomes possible?

    For example, if sea level rises by 1-2 meters, New Orleans will become uninhabitable because protecting it from storm surges will not be possible. If the sea level rise is known, adaptive responses could involve planning for the eventual submergence of New Orleans and relocating the city in an orderly manner.

    Are current climate projections reliable enough to allow this sort of adaptive response, or will civilization be continually in reactive mode, responding to crisis after crisis?
    Kindest Regards

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