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Watch: Marc Levy on Climate Change, Violence and Insecurity

Northern_Mali_conflict.svgMarc Levy, Deputy Director of the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) at Columbia University, recently gave a presentation at Simon Fraser University titled, “Welcome to the Pressure Cooker: How Climate Change is making our World More Violent and Less Secure.” (Watch the full video here and below). The talk provides an excellent overview of the evolution of the security community’s understanding of climate risks, which in many ways parallels his own research, which began by trying to disprove the alarmists (only to find that some trends were worth being alarmed about)! Levy ‘s presentation provides a very matter-of-fact look at climate security risks and what the future likely holds.

He notes, “The world today, in terms of protecting security, is fundamentally different than the pre-climate change world. And so one of our jobs is to figure out the implications of that and to take it as seriously as the people who worried about preventing nuclear war did.”

As a lead author of the IPCC’s human security chapter, Levy notes, (at approximately min. 22:00), that because of the IPCC process and the social science nature of climate impacts, “we can push the IPCC conclusions further.” He elaborates on this idea with four key points:

-Climate change makes violent conflict more likely
-The increased risk is large
-We understand the mechanisms well enough to be confident of the conclusion
-The generals are framing the problem better than the IPCC

Drawing on the latest scholarship and case studies on climate security, Marc Levy illuminated three mechanisms or arguments for why a world with climate change is more violent and conflict-ridden:

  1. Climate stress makes it harder to regulate violence
  2. Efforts to manage climate stress can shift risk to others
  3. Climate stress can trigger cascading systemic instability

He concludes: “The case for freaking out seems rational.” Given that conclusion, Levy left the audience five take-away points:

-We live in very dangerous times
-Climate is implicated
-There’s more to it than climate, but that only makes the climate risk worse
-This is not a drill – take it seriously
-Be like Brodie – acknowledge the need for new approaches, and get it done (Bernard Brodie, referenced earlier in Levy’s presentation, was a military strategist known for “establishing the basics of nuclear security”).

If you have been watching Game of Thrones, this video is another great way to spend an hour contemplating existential threats, violence, and governance.

1 Comment

  1. The video confirms my position that political science doesn’t really qualify as science because it can be heavily biased by the individual investigator’s biases and OBJECTIVES. The attribution of the civil conflict in Syria to drought and higher temperatures is a classic example. That conflict is the result of history, exacerbated by flawed USA and European foreign policy.

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