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Climate Change, the Erosion of State Sovereignty, and World Order

Erosion of State Sovereignty This is a blog series highlighting each article in the Center for Climate and Security’s recent report, “Epicenters of Climate and Security: The New Geostrategic Landscape of the Anthropocene.”

Climate Change, the Erosion of State Sovereignty, and World Order
By Francesco Femia and Caitlin E. Werrell

The formation and spread of the nation-state has occurred during a relatively stable climatic period—an 11,000-year-plus epoch referred to by geologists as the Holocene. The Holocene, thought to be the longest warm and “stable” climatic period of the last 400,000 years, may have played a significant role in facilitating the development of human civilization. The epoch encompasses the advent of agriculture, the rise and fall of empires and monarchs, and the birth and spread of the nation-state to all corners of the globe. In short, all of modern civilization occurred within the Holocene. In this context, the foundation for the current system of nation-states rests in part on a common assumption that the baseline climatic and natural-resource conditions present until today will generally continue. The flaw in this assumption is that atmospheric conditions, due to human activity, have shifted in an unprecedented way since the mid-20th century, and are changing rapidly. This phenomenon, coupled with massive demographic changes, has led some to assert that that the Earth may have entered a new epoch called the “Anthropocene.” The rapid changes inherent in this epoch could stress the very foundations of the modern nation-state system…
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