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Pirates and Climate Change: A Dispatch From the Bangladeshi Sundarbans

Bangladesh_boat_and_bank_near_Mongla

Mongla, Khulna, Bangladesh

By Peter Schwartzstein, Research Fellow

In the Bangladeshi Sundarbans, pirate gangs are king. They commandeer small ships, and smuggle contraband to and from nearby India. They kidnap local fishermen for ransom – though they give foreigners and scientists a wide berth for fear of attracting too much attention. And they sometimes poach rare Bengal Tigers. Here, in the world’s largest contiguous mangrove forest, they move through the dense jungle thicket like it’s their own personal fiefdom.

Many of these bandit crews are fugitive criminals, seeking sanctuary – and big loot – beyond the state’s reach. No matter how hard security forces try, they’ve struggled to police this sprawling labyrinth of isolated waterways. But as with seemingly everything else in Bangladesh, there’s a climate change angle, too. With worsening conditions in many coastal communities, in large part because of stronger and more frequent climate-induced disasters, farmers and fishermen are upping sticks and trying their luck elsewhere. As tales of the pirates’ riches waft through the villages, a particularly desperate – and unprincipled – subset among them appear to have succumbed to the promise of easy pickings on the high seas. (more…)

Climate and Security 101: Why the U.S. National Security Establishment Takes Climate Change Seriously

In a 2007 report by the CNA Military Advisory Board, General Gordon R. Sullivan stated: “People are saying they want to be perfectly convinced about climate science projections…But speaking as a soldier, we never have 100 percent certainty. If you wait until you have 100 percent certainty, something bad is going to happen on the battlefield.”

The national security establishment in the United States, including the U.S. military and the U.S. intelligence community, understand that climate change is a national security threat, and that we cannot wait for 100% certainty before acting to mitigate and adapt to its effects. But not only do they understand it, they plan for it – considering it’s implications in strategic documents like the Quadrennial Defense Review, and setting up an office within the CIA called the Center for Climate Change and National Security. But why? (more…)

Pirates, Monsoons and Climate Change: Sorry, Johnny Depp’s Not in This One

When one thinks about climate change, and its impact on the seasonal monsoon that affects the Indian Ocean littoral, pirates don’t necessarily come to mind. But maybe they should. A recent piece in Stratfor highlights that the end of the monsoon season, which brings calmer waters, is good news for pirates in the region who rely on steady seas. Climate change, which is expected to alter, and likely delay, the monsoon season, may thus have a non-trivial effect on the movement of pirates. (more…)