There is a growing understanding of the interaction between climate change and human security. But to date, this has largely been examined through the lens of security studies and framed by security policy experts and actors. This approach has led to ground-breaking debates and briefings on climate security in the UN Security Council. It has been a significant and necessary first step.
However, the evidence strongly suggests that the security implications of climate change influence policy making more broadly. Climate change undermines human security and the resilience of societies and ecosystems, and it is time to:
- reorient climate security discussions towards transformative solutions that build security and prosperity, that strengthen resilience in the face of a changing climate; and
- bridge policy agendas and gaps in knowledge, in close partnership with policy actors, practitioners and the scholar community.
Climate science has set out the consequences of increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases: sea-level rise, loss of biodiversity, fresh water shortages, and extreme weather events. The recent IPCC special report on global warming of 1.5°C demonstrates the connections between climate change and water-, food- and livelihood security. It brings into focus the significant human security benefits of every avoided degree and fraction of a degree of warming.
It is clear that extreme weather events lead to humanitarian crises and disasters, but extreme weather events also challenge basic social functions. For example, forest fires in Russia in 2010 led to an export ban on wheat, which contributed to sudden increases in global food prices.
We also know that severe and increasing pressures on natural resources play an important role in many local conflicts, which makes climate change an indirect driver of such conflicts. What’s more, local conflicts can spill over and become linked to other, larger armed conflicts. Conflicts in the Lake Chad region of Western Africa are an example of this.
Dealing with this complex nexus of social and environmental problems will require transformative action – and the climate security frame can and should contribute its own set of solutions to this action agenda.
But the IPCC 1.5°C report does more than simply set out climate science and describe the effects of a changing climate. It puts climate policy into context, by describing how actions to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases are linked to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Agenda. Understanding where trade-offs occur and maximizing synergies will be another new frontier for climate security studies and policy making.
Reorienting towards transformative solutions and bridging between policy areas and actors are two of the founding insights that drive the Stockholm Climate Security Hub. The Hub explores the ways in which climate change leads to human insecurities and undermines sustainable and peaceful societies. It aims to help bridge policy agendas, for example by connecting across relevant SDGs, and contribute knowledge and solutions on how social and environmental processes interact with human insecurity and conflicts.