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The Center for Climate and Security: Our thoughts on climate change

513px-NASA-global-warming-map-1970-79-to-2000-09The UK-based public policy news service, The Information Daily, reached out to us to see if we would like to comment on the changing climate.  You can read what we had to say here, or copied below.  The points made in this article echo the first blog article we wrote for the Center: An Unprecedented Risk Needs an Unprecedented Response.

Climate change is about taking action & building a resilient future

The Information Daily
Dec. 17, 2013

How we respond now to the impacts of climate change will determine what risks and opportunities we will face in the future. If concerted action is not taken to combat climate change, the opportunities available will diminish and the risks will increase.

Take the Arctic. Average summer temperatures are hotter now than in at least the last 44,000 years. Scientists predict that within the next ten years we will see ice-free conditions. This opens up a whole new space for shipping, fishing, and the exploration of resources. It also creates new challenges over how nations and peoples operate in the region, whether it is the travel routes of nuclear submarines, the construction of oil rigs, or the livelihoods of indigenous peoples. Avoiding conflict, and maintaining peace, will require the urgent development of rules and regulations for how this new space will be used.

Food production, and the water that sustains that production, is also vulnerable to climate change. The breadbaskets of the world, where agriculture first emerged thousands of years ago, are experiencing severe, crop-destroying weather events. Droughts and floods are expected to worsen and to happen more often. Species of plants that once flourished will no longer be in sync with the shifting seasons. Developments in agriculture technology and productivity are struggling to keep up with an erratic climate and growing populations.  Hunger is something many humans know too well, and without better climate preparedness, it is likely to get worse.

The coastlines of ever-expanding metropolises from New York to London to Mumbai are already experiencing the impacts of the steady rising of the sea and severe storm surges.  Population growth and urbanization are set to continue at very high rates, while at the same time many coastal cities will be sinking and losing land to the ocean. Rising sea levels mean that by mid-century island nations like Kiribati and Tuvalu may no longer physically exist. It is not clear what this means for their sovereignty, or for the people who live there.

Building sea walls will not be sufficient.  A more society-wide preparedness is necessary. The bridges, roads, buildings and infrastructure that we’ve built our lives upon are not necessarily designed to withstand the shocks of a changing climate. Some will be abandoned. Some will be rebuilt. Some will have to be reimagined. But this will take time, money and political will.

Essentially, climate change is not just about polar bears. It is about how the choices we make today are going to impact our daily lives. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, and the places we live will all be affected by these changes.

In fact, we are already seeing previous projections for climate change play out as predicted. The fine details of how the waters will rise, how long the droughts will last, or if the storm barriers will hold, are impossible to know for sure. But this uncertainty presents us with an opportunity to take the necessary actions to prepare for these risks, and build a more a resilient future.

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