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More Evidence on Climate Change and Conflict Links: Context is Key

Mideast Iraq Heat Wave

Iraqis displaced by conflict collect water at al-Takia refugee camp in Baghdad, July 2015 (AP Photo/ Khalid Mohammed)

By Neil Bhatiya, Climate and Diplomacy Fellow, The Center for Climate and Security

Much of the work the policy community has done with regard to the role climate change may play in driving armed conflict rests on important social science research which seeks to explore how conflicts start, are sustained, and eventually end. A lot of work in this subfield has focused on well-known case studies such as Syrian drought and the ongoing civil war there. In a new study in last Fall’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) Nina von Uexkull, Mihai Croicua, Hanne Fjeldea, and Halvard Buhaug add some essential new evidence to the debate over how climate change impacts, in this case increased drought, play into conflict dynamics. (more…)

Brazil: A Nation’s Churning Waterless Storm

Três Marias Reservoir, Minas Gerais Brazil - Planet Labs Satellite image. The Represa Três Marias, the result of damming the São Francisco river, is one of the largest reservoirs in Brazil. In 2014, Minas Gerais experienced one of the worst droughts of the last 50 years.

Três Marias Reservoir, Minas Gerais Brazil – Planet Labs Satellite image. The Represa Três Marias, the result of damming the São Francisco river, is one of the largest reservoirs in Brazil. In 2014, Minas Gerais experienced one of the worst droughts of the last 50 years.

By Lieutenant Commander Oliver-Leighton Barrett, United States Navy (Retired)
Senior Research Fellow, The Center for Climate and Security

A convergence zone is defined as a location where two or more forces meet – characteristically marked by some form of turmoil. São Paulo, Brazil, home to over 20.1 million people, capital of the world’s 6th largest economy, and one of the most populous cities in the Americas, finds itself in the middle of a convergence zone increasingly being intensified by environmental variability. Brazil’s epic drought (now in its third year) is lamentably one of the most under-reported and least appreciated human security stories this year, but there are crucial insights to be learned from Brazil’s experience. These insights point to a need for policy making that is informed by a more nuanced understanding of the multi-dimensional impacts of climate change on human security and political stability, especially in cities across the Americas. (more…)

DOD Battles Western Wildfires Amid State of Emergency

A U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter assigned to the 1st Battalion, 140th Aviation Regiment, California Army National Guard conducts annual helicopter bucket training at Irvine Lake, Calif., April 5, 2014, to prepare for wildfire season

A U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter assigned to the 1st Battalion, 140th Aviation Regiment, California Army National Guard conducts annual helicopter bucket training at Irvine Lake, Calif., April 5, 2014, to prepare for wildfire season

On August 4th, from Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, U.S. Northern command released a news report on its support for battling wildfires. Today, NORTHCOM officials issued an update on their wildfire efforts, noting that:

Since July 20, DoD aircraft have conducted 76 airdrops and discharged more than 137,000 gallons of fire retardant.

Over the last 24 hours, officials said, DoD aircraft conducted two airdrops and discharged about 5,700 gallons of retardant on the Bald Sisters fire in Oregon. Over the same period, seven airdrops discharged about 11,600 gallons of retardant on the East Mountain fire in Idaho.

The supporting unit flying the MAFFS mission is the Wyoming Air National Guard’s 153rd Airlift Wing, based in Cheyenne.

(more…)

Rats, Hawks and Fighter Jets: Climate and National Security in the American West

Lemoore, Calif. (Aug. 12, 2005) - F/A-18C Hornets, assigned to the "Vigilantes" of Strike Fighter Squadron One Five One (VFA-151), return to Naval Air Station Lemoore after a mission in support of Exercise Sentry Eagle. Sentry Eagle is a biannual, two-day exercise that emphasizes tactics for defending friendly airspace and assets from a variety of adversaries as well as exposing participants to multi-service military forces. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James L. Harper Jr. (RELEASED)The drought in California is taking its toll on farmers throughout the region, but the fallow fields are also having an unexpected impact on Naval flight exercises. Here & Now reports that pilots at Lemoore Naval Air Station in California, one of the west’s largest Naval bases, have found that fallow fields increase the prevalence of avian predators like red tailed hawks, and increase the likelihood of bird strikes. (more…)

William Polk: Deep Dive On Syria, Including Drought

Syrian_civil_war_mapWilliam R. Polk, a Middle East and North Africa expert who began his career on the State Department’s Policy Planning Council during the Kennedy Administration, has written an interesting piece for the Atlantic on Syria before the civil war, and looking out towards a post-Assad future. He includes a section on the 2006/7-2011 drought, and cites the Center for Climate and Security: (more…)

China, Water Transfers, Disease and Climate Change: Transferring Risk with Water?

Liujiaxia-DamChina is in the process of constructing a massive “South-North Water Transfer Project” connecting the more water-abundant south to the water-stressed north. There are a number of motivations for building the project including natural water scarcity, increased demand from both increased industrialization and population, decreasing water quality, and recent instances of severe droughts (with implications for global food supply). There are still some uncertainties about how exactly climate change will impact water resources in China, but projections of significant rainfall variability are well-founded, and the government is taking the potential risks seriously. In that context, this project could be seen as part of China’s climate adaptation strategy, though it is already apparent that there are some serious unintended consequences. (more…)

China Environment Series: Coal Heaven, Water Hell

800px-Bayan_hot_inner_mongoliaThe Woodrow Wilson Center’s China Environment Forum has just published the 12th edition of its China Environment Series (CES12). This edition, like previous editions, is packed full of interesting content focusing on environmental issues in and around China. This year, the special focus is on the water-energy nexus, and opportunities for cooperation over clean energy between the United States and China. (more…)