Armed conflicts and climate change. On October 6 of last year I had the privilege of participating in the Webinar Climate Migration and Security in the Western Hemisphere, organized by my Alma Mater the Center For Hemispheric Defense Studies William J. Perry; the moderator of that event was Dr. William “Bill” Godnick, whom I greatly esteem and admire, is a great teacher, in the same way, Dr. Clayton left me reflecting, he spoke about the impacts of climate change in the Caribbean; in such a way that I allow myself to share the following lines where I will talk about armed conflicts and climate change.
By the way; If you are interested in this topic, I recommend that you enroll in the next course organized by the Perry Center on Climate Change and Implications for Defense and Security 2023.
It is important to note that the planet has undergone cyclical changes and alterations in the climate over millions of years. However, it was in the 18th century during the Industrial Revolution that human activities began to have a major impact on the Earth’s climate. Currently, there is an almost general consensus in the scientific community that human activities cause alterations in the global climate system.
In recent years, the occurrence of extreme weather events that affect thousands of people while damaging ecosystems has been more and more frequent. Social networks have helped to make visible the damage caused by extreme weather events in recent years such as the forest fires in California and now we see the historical records of low temperatures causing strong storms and floods.
In this way, extreme weather events as a consequence of climate change, as well as related disasters, can disrupt economies, reduce agricultural and livestock production, and exacerbate inequalities between social groups, among others. These factors, when combined with other drivers of conflict, greatly increase the risks of violence. Climate change could make many governments globally begin to have problems in dealing with the crises that may arise due to the effects of extreme weather events.
The pace of changes caused by climate change, such as the rise in sea level, the melting of glaciers, the severe variability of precipitation or the increase in the frequency and intensity of storms forces human society to face unprecedented conditions. All these processes have an impact on basic resources, mainly food and water, which are necessary for the survival, security and prosperity of the world’s populations and states, as well as on the established global order.
Also the growing concern regarding national and international security problems that may arise from these phenomena; and in this context, many governments around the world are beginning to have difficulties in managing the crises caused by the effects of extreme weather events as a result of climate change.
Studies published by Stanford University reveal that the intensification of climate change will increase the future risk of violent armed conflicts within countries. Synthesizing opinions among experts, the study estimates that weather has influenced between 3 and 20 percent of armed conflicts over the last century and that influence is likely to increase dramatically. The experts, who acted as co-authors of the study, agree on the growing impact of climate on organized armed conflict in recent decades. However, they also acknowledge evidence of how other elements, such as low socioeconomic development, powerful government, social inequality, and a recent pattern of bloody conflict, have a far greater influence on intrastate conflict.
On the other hand, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) points out in its report “When the rain turns to dust” how 12 of the 20 countries most vulnerable to climate change are also affected by armed conflicts. These results show how the relationship between climate change and conflicts flows in both directions.
The climate and environmental change crisis affects every aspect of our lives, from mental and physical health, to food, water and livelihoods. Although climate change is a global problem, it does not affect everyone equally. The most vulnerable communities with the fewest resources are most affected.
Too often, war causes direct damage to or destruction of the natural world. Attacks can leach contaminants into the air, as well as into land and water. In addition, debris from explosive battles is a threat to wildlife. Such environmental deterioration reduces adaptability and resilience to climate change.
Additional environmental degradation can also result from the indirect impacts of conflict, such as the reduced ability of government agencies to regulate and preserve the environment, the pressure of large-scale demographic changes, and the exploitation of resources to support economies in the war.
The countries that make up Latin America do not escape this problem since they are going through internal conflicts derived from transnational organized crime, clandestine felling of trees, illegal exploitation of minerals, irregular fishing affecting marine flora and fauna, as well as the trafficking of animal and plant species added to the great business of human trafficking derived from migration in search of new natural resources and opportunities to live better. These countries have less capacity to face the climate crisis, precisely because their adaptive capacity is weakened by it.
People who suffer from conflicts often talk about and report on the great environmental changes they see. Their daily lives are not only hampered by the violence in which they live, but also by a changing climate and environment.
In 2020, the ICRC published “When the rain turns to dust”. The report notes that countries in conflict are disproportionately affected by extreme climatic conditions and weather events, due to the limited adaptive capacity of the people, systems and institutions already suffering from the consequences of conflict.
The report is based on investigations carried out in southern Iraq, northern Mali and the Central African Republic, places isolated by protracted conflicts and where the ICRC carries out large-scale operational activities. The report notes that the human sector must adapt its activities to address these risks and calls for more action and funding to address the consequences of climate change in conflict-affected countries.
If climate change changes the physical and geopolitical landscape of the world, the risks of conflict and instability will increase and become more difficult to manage if governments cannot reduce this influence. Due to its structural flaws and the significant dangers posed by this crisis.
So far, climate change has not caused the outbreak of any armed conflict. However, in various areas of the world where there are active armed conflicts, extreme weather events occur. These phenomena are becoming more frequent and more severe. Governments in conflict zones do not have the capacity to address such conflict and at the same time undertake resilience actions against the changing climate. The population is doubly vulnerable due to the violence of the conflict and sometimes without the possibility of accessing basic resources due to inclement weather. It is a fact that extreme weather events are one of the factors that contribute to thousands of people in conflict zones having to leave their homes to move to areas where they can meet their basic needs.
In this sense, the effects of climate change could make it necessary to rethink the concept of traditional security. Current evidence indicates that extreme weather events (fires, droughts, floods, etc.) represent a great risk to the internal security of various countries around the world. Especially in regions of the world where there are active armed conflicts. In this sense, taking action to face the effects of climate change must be recognized as a global security issue. Climate resilience actions must be on the security agendas of all countries in the world. Recognizing the fight against climate change as a security issue could represent a great advance to initiate real actions to safeguard the lives and basic rights of millions of people around the world.
We must join forces within the humanitarian sector and beyond to mitigate climate change and ensure that people receive the support they need to adapt to the climate crisis now and in the future. Inaction is not an option.
No one can tackle these challenges alone. An urgent radical transformation is needed to prevent further suffering. The protection of life and the rights of present and future generations depends on political measures. Reducing greenhouse gases is vital, but these efforts must be complemented by measures that help communities adapt.
Despite being the most vulnerable to the consequences of climate change, countries affected by conflicts are the most neglected in terms of climate finance and, in particular, financing for adaptation. It is necessary to reverse this situation.
The increase in temperature and changes in precipitation patterns in the continent threaten agricultural activity and put the livelihood of the population at risk. One of the main concerns on the American Continent is that the acceleration of climate change could exacerbate social instability and lead to armed conflicts or massive migratory movements.
Some studies report how food shortages, as a result of droughts, increase the possibility of a conflict breaking out, mainly if the lack of water persists for at least three years, while excess rainfall triggers a lack of food, derived from the destruction of crops and the death of animals, violent acts will increase in the areas, but in a very short period of time. For example, when herders and farmers are forced to share dwindling resources due to a change in climate, tensions can arise in places where strong and inclusive governance institutions do not exist.
Last year we saw a great conflict in the State of Nuevo León Mexico derived from the lack of water, but it was not only that place that was affected by the lack of water in Mexico like many countries that make up Latin America, we can see the herders of animals that regarding land for grazing became scarce due to the floods. As a consequence, concern grew among herders at having to move with their cattle for fear of being attacked by armed groups or bandits, so they began to gather in areas close to water sources, which created tensions with farmers and farmers. fishermen. Insecurity prevented them from reaching the most distant cattle markets, since they did not have professional state officials in charge of enforcing the law, nor possible state support from other areas of government to work jointly and interagency, against violence. , which also considerably limits humanitarian access, the tendency to increase armed conflicts in the area and escalate violence in a spiral without a doubt is very latent.
The effects of climate change on natural resources can significantly reduce a country’s ability to govern itself over time due to the pressures exerted by existing demographic, economic, and political conditions. This capacity is demonstrated by its willingness to meet the basic needs of its citizens in the areas of food, water, energy and employment.
This trend gives rise to what the State calls “generated legitimacy”. When this legitimacy is in jeopardy, it can contribute to the weakening of government institutions, the escalation of internal conflicts, or even the dissolution of the state itself. From this point of view, climate change represents a serious problem for the stability and legitimacy of the states that make up the Western Hemisphere; a region that was already facing countless difficulties before those now caused by climate change arose and in short, the possibility of an increase in violence due to extreme weather events could lead human beings to a new crossroads in which to face the rise in armed conflicts, this situation, occurs mainly in countries with high degrees of social inequality and economy, weak institutions or with few possibilities of adaptation to climate change.
In this sense, the effects of climate change have caused the need to rethink the concept of traditional security. Current evidence indicates that extreme weather events represent a great risk to the internal security of several countries around the world. Climate change is considered as an unprecedented source of systemic risks to national security, and for this reason, it constitutes one of the central and growing importance points in the National Security Strategies of an increasing number of States.
The William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies is a trusted agent uniquely positioned to convene the leading network of defense and security professionals in the Americas to promote dialogue, foster strategic thinking, and facilitate shared solutions to contemporary challenges, in this year 2023 the possibility of studying the course… “Climate Change and Implications for Defense and Security…”
The Climate Change course provides an opportunity to examine climate change and the destabilizing impact it will have on communities in the Americas. Climate change (CC) has been referred to as an “existential” crisis and climate-related crises – geographic, environmental, economic, political, and social – will accelerate as global temperatures continue to rise. This course will focus heavily on the role of security and defense institutions in combatting CC and the associated security implications of global temperature increases. To provide a broader context of how CC will impact communities in Latin American and Caribbean nations, the CCIDS course will examine causes of global temperature increases and how societies can mitigate the effects of the associated meteorological disasters. The course focus will be predominantly on the consequences of climate change will have on security-related matters for governments in the region.