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“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…)

Thomas Friedman Cites the Center for Climate and Security on Extreme Weather in the Middle East and South Asia

Iraqis displaced by conflict collect water at al-Takia refugee camp in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, July 30, 2015. Scorching temperatures are normal this time of year, but an unprecedented heat wave prompted Iraqi authorities to declare a mandatory four-day holiday beginning Thursday. The government has urged residents to stay out of the sun and drink plenty of water. (AP Photo/ Khalid Mohammed)

Iraqis displaced by conflict collect water at al-Takia refugee camp in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, July 30, 2015. (AP Photo/ Khalid Mohammed)

New York Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman published an Op-ed today, “The World’s Hot Spot,” about the extreme heat waves plaguing the Middle East and South Asia, including Iran (citing AccuWeather’s Anthony Sagliani who stated that a July 31 reading in the Iranian city of Bandar Mahshahr was ‘…one of the most incredible temperature observations I have ever seen, and it is one of the most extreme readings ever in the world.’) The column explores political protests and sweeping changes in government, particularly in Iraq, which followed from the perceived inadequate response to the heat wave, and asks questions about whether or not enough attention is being paid to climatic events by the region’s political leaders.

Friedman cited the Center for Climate and Security’s Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell, regarding how climate stresses are measured against other security risks, as well as how such extreme events can place significant strains on the social contract between governments and their respective publics. The full citation: (more…)

Watch This Space: Iran Water Protests

 Zayandeh Rud (Isfahan River) without water in drought — at Si-o-se pol (bridge), Isfahan.

Zayandeh Rud (Isfahan River) without water in drought — at Si-o-se pol (bridge), Isfahan.

Iran is currently experiencing extreme water shortages. The Center for Climate and Security and others have reported on the water crisis in the country for some time, but it continues unabated. Iran has experienced a reported 14 years of successive drought, and today Twitter is abuzz with images of protests in Isfahan, Iran, over water shortages in the area.

As with so many water problems, this is a crisis primarily about water management, and the current Iranian government does not seem up to the task. With so many other security risks demanding the attention of leaders in the region and internationally, it remains unclear whether or not better water management will receive the attention it deserves (See “Iran: Dried Out” by Najmeh Bozorgmehr for more on the need for Iran to improve its governance of this vital resource).

Of course, water is not known to acknowledge political boundaries, so Iran’s water problems will not remain confined to the nation for very long. Given broader instability in the region, and the likelihood of a continued decline in precipitation levels (due to the effects of climate change), the international community should pay very close attention to what’s happening in Isfahan.




Deep Dive Into Iran’s Water Woes

Urmia_lake_1984_to_2011Last week, The New York Times’ Thomas Erdbrink wrote an article on Iran that outlined a new threat. It wasn’t about uranium enrichment or backdoor discussions between the P5+1. It was about the water levels in Lake Urmia, the largest lake in the Middle East. The full article, “Its Great Lake Shriveled, Iran Confronts Crisis of Water Supply,” is worth a read.

Though the country’s nuclear ambitions still dominate the security discussion around Iran, the country’s natural resource crisis is slowly garnering increased attention. (more…)

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