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Egypt’s Political Transition and the Rising Sea: An Opportunity for Reform

Last January, on the heels of a successful popular revolution in Tunisia, Egyptians decided that they wanted to govern themselves as well. This led to the eventual overthrow of the 30-year Mubarak regime. Since then, the Egyptian path to democracy has been challenged, with the country’s military elite largely filling the empty spaces of power.

But while this political transition stumbles forward uncertainly, with the forces of reaction threatening to nip progress towards democracy in the bud, another less political threat looms. The health of the Nile Delta. (more…)

War and Peace…and El Niño…and Climate Change

NOAA.A new study by M. Hsiang et al., covering the years 1950 – 2004, shows that conflicts are associated with the El Niño cycle. According to Hsiang and his colleagues, “the probability of new civil conflicts arising throughout the tropics doubles during El Niño years relative to La Niña years.” The authors do not claim that El Niño is the sole factor in determining civil conflict (poverty and governance are other key factors), but this is a significant finding. (more…)

An Unprecedented Risk Needs an Unprecedented Response

We know with a very high degree of certainty the likelihood of climate change and its expected impacts.

We know, for example, that the seas will rise, that 50% of the Earth’s population lives in coastal zones, and that by 2025 that number will rise to seventy-five percent.

We know that global agriculture production faces increased floods and droughts, which will disrupt growing patterns that have been cultivated over thousands of years, severely diminishing our ability to feed a global population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050.

We know that climate change will impact resource availability, such as freshwater, compelling people to move to new locations, within and across national boundaries. We know that such dynamics can result in conflict and violence.

Despite the certainty of these risks, the global response has been feeble at best.  In short, we were unprepared. Climate change at this rate and scale is unprecedented in human history.  Our governance structures, from the familial to the international, which are responsible for responding to risk and maintaining our security, have evolved during a period of relative climate certainty. Cities, trade agreements, economies, national boundaries, political systems, security strategies, have all been built upon a stable climate.

In a world with an unstable climate, all of these structures will have to prepare.  An unprecedented risk needs an unprecedented response.