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By Lieutenant Commander Oliver-Leighton Barrett, US Navy (Ret)
The dominant media narrative that explains the reasons for current Central American migration to the United States centers on the dismal economic and security conditions across source states: Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. The ‘failing economies’ and ‘corrupt governments’ narratives largely frame our understanding of the near en masse emigration of Central Americans northwards. However, those explanations don’t tell the whole story. The ongoing food security crisis across the region (caused by drought, crop disease, and water shortages) deserves special examination, not only because it might be a leading causal factor for the crisis, but also because it is undoubtedly one of its catalysts. As such, any U.S. policy prescriptions that do not help to address the catastrophic impacts of environmental changes on Central American agriculture, will fail to achieve their objectives.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office, or GAO, has issued two reports in the past two months that address the security implications of climate change. One on climate and migration, and the other on emerging threats.
The most recent, titled “Climate Change: Activities of Selected Agencies to Address Potential Impact on Global Migration” was released last month. The full report is worth a read, but the section on climate change, migration and possible national security implications is particularly interesting, not least as the GAO is wisely cautious about how it describes those dynamics. In the section titled “Climate Change Impacts on Migration that May Affect National Security,” on page 6, the report states: (more…)
This is a cross-post from the Robert Strauss Center for International Security and Law
The Strauss Center’s Complex Emergencies and Political Stability in Asia (CEPSA) program released the new Complex Emergencies Dashboard today. In partnership with Development Gateway, CEPSA developed the online mapping platform to enable policymakers and researchers to visualize CEPSA datasets on climate vulnerability, conflict, national disaster preparation, and international climate and disaster aid, along with related external datasets on other security concerns like food access and forced migration. (more…)
Looking at the world today, we can see strong signals of what the future may bring: unprecedented climate risks and natural resource stress, continuing refugee crises, and responses from governments ranging from welcoming with open arms to watching as the most vulnerable perish. Long-simmering and emerging conflicts will not be solved overnight. Stresses on water and food, and the inability of governments to provide these basic resources for their citizens, are not going to go away. The growing and multi-faceted push and pull drivers of migration are not going away either. These challenges we can foresee. But with foresight comes a “responsibility to prepare,” and to do so in a manner that is consistent with our values.
The difference between today and tomorrow rests in what we as nations choose to do in the face of these challenges. Do we choose humanitarian responses that truly enhance our security or do we choose to artificially isolate ourselves?
For millennia and for many today, mobility is security. Governments will need to recognize that reality and start developing both preventive solutions and ameliorative responses that enhance human security, and, in so doing, bolster security worldwide.
Record levels of displacement and accelerating climate change have prompted many to wonder if the world is headed toward a more violent future. The nexus of climate change, migration, and conflict is posing fundamental challenges to societies. But not always in the ways you might think. In a new report prepared for the U.S. Agency of International Development, Lauren Herzer Risi and I present a small guide to this controversial and consequential nexus of global trends. (more…)
Please RSVP to join us on November 17, 2015 for the launch of our new report, The U.S. Asia-Pacific Rebalance, National Security and Climate Change, and a conversation between leaders from the defense, diplomacy and intelligence worlds.
The United States is in the early stages of what it characterizes as an “Asia-Pacific rebalance”. Essentially, this means that on a very broad strategic scale, the United States intends to reorient its foreign policy and national security posture to the Asia-Pacific region, which is host to burgeoning populations, growing economies, strategic choke-points like the South China Sea, and a number of rising powers. But the region is also one of the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, with a growing coastal population, rising seas, numerous critical waterways fed by glaciers, threatened island states, increased drying, and projections of severe water insecurity in the near future.
In this context, the effects of climate change are likely to both shape, and be shaped by, the U.S. role in the Asia-Pacific. (more…)