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The Climate Factor in Syrian Instability: A Conversation Worth Continuing

Hoerling et al 2012

Observed change in cold season precipitation for the period 1971–2010 minus 1902–70 (Hoerling et al., 2012).

A recently-released study by Jan Selby and colleagues analyzes existing research on the intersection of climate change and conflict in Syria. The article, published in the Journal of Political Geography, includes a critique of a 2015 study published by the Center for Climate and Security’s (CCS) Caitlin Werrell, Francesco Femia and Troy Sternberg (and a short briefer by CCS from 2012), as well as two other studies by Colin Kelley et al (2015) and Peter Gleick (2014). More research into the climate-conflict nexus in pre-civil war Syria is certainly welcome for better understanding the risks and informing future policies for addressing them. In this study, Selby et al. point to some important gaps in the data on the connection between displaced peoples and social and political unrest, and the possible role of market liberalization in the Syrian conflict. However, the study does nothing to refute the role of climate change in Syrian instability in the years before the war, while muddying the waters on the subject through a few mischaracterizations that are worth addressing at some length. (more…)

Briefer: India, Climate Change and Security in South Asia

India_heat_wave_610_2015

Hottest daytime high temperature during May 24-30, 2015. NOAA

By David Antos, Guest Author, The Center for Climate and Security

South Asia faces a wide array of social, political, and economic issues that already threaten security in the region. The region has a history of border disputes, sectarian violence, and government corruption. In addition, population increases continue to stress the growing problems associated with urbanization, such as poor sanitation, the spread of disease, resource allocation, and meeting energy demands. The region is also particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. In this context, climate change could exacerbate existing insecurities in South Asia, and potentially heighten the likelihood of instability.  To read more, click here for the full briefer, “India, Climate Change and Security in South Asia.”

 

A Storm Without Rain: Yemen, Water, Climate Change, and Conflict

Water_reservoir,_yemen

Water reservoir in Yemen, by Mufaddalqn

By Collin Douglas, Center for Climate & Security Research Fellow

The civil war in Yemen has old origins, but the recent violence can be traced back to the Arab Spring of 2011, and protests in Yemen over unemployment, corruption, and general dissatisfaction with President Ali Abdullah Saleh.[i]  On the surface, the civil war seems to be a politically-motivated competition for power among many actors with varying motives. However, underneath the obvious political and societal tensions, there lies a more basic tension: water. (more…)

Climate Change in the Levant: Further Evidence Strengthens Case for Role in Syrian Instability

Syria migration

Reuters/Rodi Said

By Dr. Colin Kelley, Senior Research Fellow, The Center for Climate and Security

A new study provides the strongest evidence to date that the drying of the eastern Mediterranean Levant region over recent decades is very likely the result of human influence on the Earth’s climate system. This research uses tree-ring data in the Old World Drought Atlas to better characterize year-to-year and decade-to-decade natural rainfall variability over the greater Mediterranean basin. (more…)

“Is Climate Change the Biggest Security Threat?” Is Still A Bad Question

World Map, showing Failed States according to the

World Map, showing Failed States according to the “Failed States Index 2013” (by Ithinkhelikesit)

What is the biggest national security threat? Is climate change the biggest national security threat? We, and the current U.S. presidential candidates, get these questions quite a bit. They are not good questions. These questions confuse the nature of today’s security threats, and more specifically, obscure the complex way in which climate change affects the broader security landscape. Climate change is not an exogenous threat, hermetically sealed from other risks. It is, as the CNA Corporation first stated in 2007, a “threat multiplier.” The impacts of climate change interact with other factors to make existing security risks – whether it’s state fragility in the Middle East, or territorial disputes in the South China Sea – worse. (more…)

BRIEFER: Climate Change and Vietnamese Fisheries, Opportunities for Conflict Prevention

The Center for Climate and Security’s Dr. Marcus Dubois King writes about the climate change-fisheries-conflict nexus in a new briefer titled “Climate Change and Vietnamese Fisheries: Opportunities for Conflict Prevention.” The article will also appear in a forthcoming multi-author volume from the Center. For the full briefer, click here. For a summary, see below.

Summary: Climate Change and Vietnamese Fisheries: Opportunities for Conflict Prevention

Vietnamese fisheries in the South China Sea are a vital economic resource that is in decline and susceptible to climate change. Chinese vessels have engaged Vietnamese counterparts as they pursue catches in waters claimed by China. Projected further northward migration of fish stocks into these waters caused by warming ocean temperatures could aggravate tensions as Vietnamese fishers follow. Likewise, climate change’s impacts on Vietnamese aquaculture threaten food security in areas including those experiencing heavy inward migration. Ethnic minority groups experience a disproportionate share of the negative consequences; a situation that may aggravate existing tensions. Vietnam is an emerging strategic partner in the region. Vietnamese conflict with China and internal instability are inimical to U.S. interests. As it rebalances foreign policy toward the Asia-Pacific, the U.S. government should dedicate more resources, including military assets and climate finance, toward improving climate resilience and fisheries management in Vietnam. Constructive engagement on climate change can promote Vietnamese internal and external security while reducing the possibility of conflict with China. Click here for the full briefer.

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. (more…)