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Why the Nile Constitutes a New Kind of Water Dispute – and Why That’s Dangerous

Nile_River_Delta_at_NightBy Peter Schwartzstein

Ever since workers first broke ground on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in 2011, international commenters have fixated on the Nile as a possible harbinger of future ‘water wars’ to come. And almost since then, water experts have pushed back against that narrative. There’s no reason for such giddy pessimism, they say. Nor does precedent support the likelihood of conflict. As Addis Ababa and downstream Cairo have slowly hashed out most of the technical details, they’ve so far been proven right.

But though this dispute’s potential to spark inter-state violence may have been overstated thus far, at least for the near-term, the Nile and its GERD lightning rod nevertheless offer an alarming insight into just how dangerous future transboundary water disputes are liable to become, particularly in the context of a changing climate. This might be the new normal. Because while most previous cross-border water wrangles played out among neighbors with histories of water woes or sudden supply shocks, many current disputes are ensnaring a much broader, significantly less experienced, and worryingly ill-prepared cast of riparian states.

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Release: New Report on Converging Nuclear Energy, Climate and Security Risks in Egypt

CSR Working Group on Climate Nuclear Security Affairs_Egypt Report_2019_6_11Washington, DC, June 12, 2019 – Today the Council on Strategic Risks (CSR), the parent organization of the Center for Climate and Security, released a new report titled “Nuclear Energy Developments, Climate Change, and Security in Egypt,” through its Converging Risks Lab program. The report explores the ways in which nuclear, climate and security trends are converging in this critical country – an under-explored yet potentially very consequential security issue.

This report comes on the heels of U.S. policy-makers in Congress recognizing the importance of understanding the intersection of nuclear and climate trends. Last week, the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Strategic Forces approved language to the FY20 National Defense Authorization Bill stating that the Department of Defense “must plan to ensure the viability of the nuclear enterprise” at least throughout the planned nuclear modernization program. As such, it requires “the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of Energy, to provide a report to the House Committee on Armed Services not later than March 31, 2020, assessing the effects of climate change on the U.S. nuclear enterprise, to include bases, ports, laboratories, plants, sites, and testing facilities, through 2080.” (more…)

SAIS Review of International Affairs Special Volume on Climate and Environmental Security

Digging_irrigation_channels,_Palmyra,_SyriaThe SAIS Review of International Affairs has just published an excellent new volume titled: “The Era of Man: Environmental Security on a Changing Planet.” Contributors to the volume include a range of key experts in the climate, environmental security, security studies and foreign policy fields, covering topics that span sectors and the globe.

The Center for Climate and Security’s contribution to the volume includes an article by Werrell, Femia and Sternberg titled “Did We See it Coming? State Fragility, Climate Vulnerability, and the Uprisings in Syria and Egypt,” which builds on reports from 2012 and 2013. The article examines two popular indices, one measuring state fragility and the other measuring climate vulnerability, to assess whether or not deteriorating water and food security dynamics in both countries in the years leading up to the uprisings, were captured in these different tools.

The Center for Climate Security’s Advisory Board member, Dr. David Titley, and his colleague Katarzyna Zysk, also contributed to the volume with: “Signals, Noise, and Swans in Today’s Arctic.” The article looks at ‘the “signals” (ongoing trends), the “noise” (short-term fluctuations) and the “swans” (the wild cards) in the environmental changes in the Arctic and their geopolitical implications.’

See below for the full list of articles, here for the Editor’s note, which summarizes each article, and here for the entire volume. (more…)

Four North African Nations Sign Water-Sharing Agreement Plan

Photo by DAVID HOLTFour nations, Chad, Egypt, Libya, and Sudan, have signed a Strategic Action Programme (SAP) over the sharing of the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System.  The aquifer lies beneath the four nations and is the largest known “fossil” or non-renewable system in the world.  According to a press release by the International Atomic Energy Agency: (more…)