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EVENT SUMMARY: IPCC Authors Underscore Importance of Governance, Adaptation to Reduce Climate Vulnerability

By Brigitte Hugh 

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.


Climate-Forward Diplomacy, Development, and Defense at the Pacific Futures Forum

By Elsa Barron

Last month, the Pacific Futures Forum, which is a platform for collaborative dialogue to re-imagine multilateralism in a changing world, hosted critical conversations in the lead up to the COP26 Glasgow summit. The plenary session, “Transforming our world: a secure, sustainable, and prosperous future,” featured former UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. In his keynote address, Moon underlined the importance of supporting the political will that was initiated at COP21 to fulfil our moral responsibility to act on climate change. Following this call to action, moderator Samira Ahmed led panelists Hon. Sherri Goodman, Samir Saran, Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti CB, Divya Seshamani, and Benet Northcote in a discussion on a secure, sustainable, and prosperous future. The panel covered the role of diplomacy, development, and defense within the framework of environmental security.

COP26 itself kick-started the conversation on global diplomacy. When asked about her priorities for the global summit, Sherri Goodman, Senior Strategist with the Center for Climate and Security and Chair of the Board at the Council on Strategic Risks, emphasized that we are well on our way to 1.5 degrees celsius of warming, and that temperature rise exacerbates threat multipliers for insecurity such as extreme temperature, drought, and natural disaster. Therefore, Goodman noted, COP26 must focus on the root of the problem: emissions. Enacting deep-decarbonization and setting and achieving net-zero goals is a crucial diplomatic goal in regard to climate change. Samir Saran, President of the Observer Research Foundation, agreed, adding that there is a need for global leadership that is capable of policy making and diplomacy with a long-term perspective in mind, detached from the perpetual need for immediate gain that is often antithetical to solid climate commitments.


Balancing on a Knife’s Edge: Climate Security Implications of the IPCC Findings

A wildfire at Florida Panther NWR. Photo by Josh O'Connor - USFWS.
A wildfire at Florida Panther NWR. Photo by Josh O’Connor – USFWS.

By Akash Ramnath and Kate Guy

New scientific consensus released today details the potential future course of climate change, with serious repercussions for international security and stability. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the first product of its Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), summarizing the latest scientific understanding on the state of global climate change. This report, completed by the IPCC Working Group I (WGI), offers the best collective picture of how human caused climate change is impacting the physical systems of the planet now and in the future. 

The report makes clear that our planet’s climatic systems are changing rapidly in response to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. By 2100, global average temperatures are expected to rise between 2.1-3.5°C in an intermediate scenario, or 3.3-5.7°C in a high emissions scenario, if humans do not curb and continue expanding greenhouse gas emitting activities. The path to keeping global temperatures to just 1.5°C of warming, the report states, looks increasingly narrow; while every additional fraction of a degree in planetary warming will have worsening impacts on climate stability.

The findings of the WGI report have two important implications for security audiences: First, cutting emissions and adapting to climate impacts are equally important for security in the coming years; second, that the increasing risk of crossing climate tipping points suggests security services must prepare for managing multiple climate-induced crises at once. 


Covid and Climate Change Push South Asia Toward a Complex Emergency

By Sarang Shidore and Andrea Rezzonico 

As Cyclone Tauktae hurtled toward India’s west coast on May 17, a grim scenario outlined in  Amitav Ghosh’s eloquent meditation on climate change, The Great Derangement, suddenly loomed as a distinct possibility. A direct hit on the megapolis of Mumbai, India’s financial capital, Ghosh wrote, could wreak damage far greater than the city’s monster flood of 2005. To the prospect of massive flooding and failure of essential services, Ghosh added the spectacle of corrugated iron roofs from the city’s teeming informal settlements turning into deadly projectiles slamming into its upscale glass towers, and major radioactive leakage in the city’s decades-old nuclear complex. The scenario is only too realistic, and may presage frequent complex emergency moments in South Asia, in which multiple risks (ranging from climate change to health, geopolitics, and governance) converge in a positive feedback loop, creating extensive dislocation and damage to large human populations. 

The Arabian Sea, on the coast of which Mumbai is located, has historically seen far less cyclonic activity than the more turbulent Bay of Bengal to its east. Bangladesh and the Indian states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, for example, are no strangers to major storms and attendant evacuation of tens of millions of people – with a potential new cyclone brewing even at the time of writing. But the Arabian Sea’s major urban agglomerations in South Asia – Mumbai and Karachi – but also Goa, Kochi, Mangalore and others, have generally had an easy ride, with Mumbai not seeing a serious cyclone in its vicinity in four decades.

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