Climate change threatens more conflict

9th March 2017


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  • Adaptation ,
  • Mitigation

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IEMA

Climate change could lead to more armed conflict if left unchecked, the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has warned.

Patricia Espinosa told a session of the annual Munich Security Conference last month: ‘Climate change is the threat multiplier that worsens social, economic and environmental pressures, leading to social upheaval and possibly even violent conflict.’

Espinosa called for the climate change narrative to go beyond environmental risks, such as drought and resource scarcity. ‘This story must be carried forward to show that already vulnerable communities become more desperate, more vulnerable and more susceptible,’ she said. ‘People are displaced in their country or to other countries. Add in conflict or predatory criminals or several concurrent crises and your humanitarian situation quickly escalates into a security risk.’

She said a failure to reduce emissions and build society’s capacity to cope with the impacts of rising temperatures would result in more disruption, more instability and more displacement: ‘The world will be less stable, less secure.’

She argued that exceeding the Paris agreement commitments and delivering the UN sustainable development goals would help to reduce the risk of conflict and increase stability: ‘We [must] take real, meaningful action on climate change and the SDGs at the urgent speed science says is required.’

Also on the panel was Finland’s president Sauli Niinistö. He feared the Arctic region and its natural resources could become a flashpoint for conflict. ‘We have already seen flag planting,’ he said, referring to the new Russian military bases in the region. ‘Tensions will rise,’ Niinistö predicted.

Sheldon Whitehouse, a US senator and member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said there was a risk that meaningful action to combat climate change would come too late or be scuppered by politicians who did not consider it a priority.

Whitehouse said he endorsed the views contained in a 2009 letter to President Barack Obama from US business leaders, including Donald Trump. It stated: ‘If we fail to act now, it is scientifically irrefutable that there will be catastrophic and irreversible consequences for humanity and our planet.’


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