Our responses to climate challenges, or lack thereof, increasingly play a role in the severity of impacts on human systems. That’s part of “what makes climate risks so challenging to manage,” said Dr. Katharine Mach, a lead author on the Working Group II report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Cycle (AR6) at an event hosted by the Center for Climate and Security (CCS) on March 8, 2022.
The event, “Decoding the IPCC report on Climate Impacts: Implications for Security and Adaptation,” featured Dr. Mach, fellow lead author, Dr. Halvard Buhaug, and Dr. Rod Schoonover, Head of the Ecological Security Program at the Council on Strategic Risks.
Speakers underscored the main findings of the Working Group II report—the importance of good governance and investment in adaptation to reduce risks posed by the intersection of a changing climate and an increasingly complex security landscape.
“Mitigating future climate-related security risks means addressing vulnerability,” said Buhaug, as “climate change affects everyone, but not to the same extent.” Speakers highlighted the crucial role of governance structures in building community resilience and protecting against the worst climate impacts.
Because a complex risk landscape requires complex government collaboration and action, reducing climate impacts on the most vulnerable will necessitate multi-sectoral, multi-layered governance responses. Part of that response should include adaptation to climate risks, which was a second main area of discussion during the event. According to Mach, the IPCC WGII report marked the first global scientific assessment of adaptation literature. Both the report and event speakers highlighted the effectiveness of adaptation—if deployed well—in reducing some of the risk from climate impacts.
Schoonover pointed out that the “implications for human, national, and global security are not necessarily those that have a military dimension or solution.” His comments underscored the importance of developing non-military interventions, including adaptation, to protect populations against climate and climate security impacts.
Additionally, the report’s assessment of the limits of adaptation will help analysts “judge the seriousness of the risks of climate change to security,” said Schoonover. Having a clear understanding of the limits of adaptation shows when we have crossed the threshold from predicting the worst events to experiencing them—a threshold, all speakers agreed, we must avoid by acting now.