Current carbon pledges won't stop dangerous global warming, says Lord Stern

Commitments already made by world governments to cut carbon emissions aren’t enough to keep global warming below the crucial 2C target – but a strong deal is still possible in Paris, says economist. The commitments made by world governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the next 15 years are not sufficient to stave off the worst effects of climate change,...
read more ›

Drought, expanding deserts and 'food for jihad' drive Mali's conflict

Life has never been easy in Moussa Majga's corner of northern Mali, a desert region of leafless trees, mud huts and roaming gunmen. For years, violence has plagued Majga's dusty town, the scene of clashes between government forces and Tuareg-led separatists who took advantage of a 2012 coup in Mali's capital Bamako to escalate their uprising...
read more ›

Quote of the Month

"The impact of climate change is posing a growing challenge to peace and stability. That is why we need a new culture of international cooperation: affected states need to be involved at an early stage, and state resilience needs to become a leitmotif of foreign policy." - Frank‑Walter Steinmeier, German Foreign Minister, Presentation of the Report “A New Climate for Peace – Taking Action on Climate and Fragility
read more ›

ECC Newsletter Edition 1/2015

We have published the first edition of the Environment, Conflict, and Cooperation Newsletter in 2015. Read how foreign policy makers can use opportunities for green job creation to promote ambitious climate action, about linkages between climate change and fragility in Africa, or how climate change exacerbates conflicts between mining and herding in Mongolia.
read more ›

Climate Change as a Security Risk

Dr. Karin Boschert, research analyst, Political Science at the secretariat of The German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU)

The core message of WBGU's risk analysis is that without resolute counteraction, climate change will overstretch many societies' adaptive capacities within the coming decades. This could result in destabilization and violence, jeopardizing national and international security to a new degree. In order to avoid these developments, an ambitious global climate policy must be put into operation within the next 10-15 years. This major international policy challenge arises parallel to a far-reaching shift in the centres of power of the political world order, which will be dominated by the rise of new powers such as China and India. This transition could be accompanied by turbulence in the international system, which may make it more difficult to achieve the necessary breakthroughs in multilateral climate policy.

Climate-induced risks for international stability and security
WBGU shows that climate change could exacerbate existing environmental crises such as drought, water scarcity and soil degradation, intensify land-use conflicts and trigger further environmentally-induced migration. Rising global temperatures will jeopardize the bases of many people's livelihoods, especially in the developing regions, increase vulnerability to poverty and social deprivation. Even significant and adverse effects on the global economy are plausible. Particularly in weak and fragile states with poorly performing institutions and systems of government, climate change is also likely to overwhelm local capacities to adapt to changing environmental conditions and will thus reinforce the trend towards general instability that already exists in many societies and regions. This could result in the erosion of social order and state failure impossible to manage with traditional security policy. Climate change will draw ever-deeper lines of division and conflict in international relations, triggering numerous conflicts between and within countries over the distribution of resources, especially water and land, over the management of migration, or over compensation payments between the countries mainly responsible for climate change and those countries most affected by its destructive effects. These dynamics threaten to overstretch the established global governance system, and to aggravate existing problems in international security.

Climate policy as security policy I:
Preventing conflict by avoiding dangerous climate change
In WBGU's view, climate policy thus becomes preventive security policy, for if climate policy is successful in limiting the rise in globally averaged surface temperatures to no more than 2°C relative to the pre-industrial value, the climate-induced threat to international security would likely be averted. To this end, WBGU recommends the adoption of a global temperature guard rail limiting the rise in near-surface air temperature to a maximum of 2°C relative to the pre-industrial value. This will require a 50% reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 compared with a 1990 baseline. In addition, the Kyoto Protocol should be further developed and preserving natural carbon stocks should become a key goal of future climate policy. In order to be a credible negotiating partner the European Union should play a leading role in the climate process.

Climate policy as security policy II:

Preventing conflict by implementing adaptation strategies
Climate change will hit developing countries particularly hard. Timely adaptation measures should therefore be an integral element of their national policies. Especially national and international water resource management needs to be adapted to the impacts of climate chance in order to avoid water crises. In agricultural development strategies and food security policy, a new qualitative focus is required in light of changing climate conditions. Sea-level rise and an increase in storm and flood disasters pose a great challenge for disaster prevention and management. Overall, international cooperation must be intensified and research on adaptation strategies, most of all in developing countries, be expanded.

Strengthening overall risk prevention
Crisis prevention costs far less than crisis management at a later stage. Hence national and international mechanisms for crisis prevention and peace consolidation should clearly grow in importance against traditional security policy, especially in the sphere of developmental, environmental and foreign policy. In general, WBGU is in favour of better coordinating the efforts of the relevant UN organizations and programmes and significantly enhancing their role in the interests of prevention. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) should be upgraded by granting it the status of a UN specialized agency and the role of the Security Council be reflected in light of the new security threats.

Intensifying multilateral cooperation
In order to ensure the acceptance and, above all, the constructive participation of the ascendant new world powers China and India, a multilateral order is needed which is regarded as fair by all the world's countries. One option could be to initiate and institutionalize a theme-specific process, modelled on the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) and aimed at confidence-building worldwide. In order to peacefully and effectively manage environmentally-induced migration, vigorous collective efforts are needed to establish a cross-sectoral multilateral Convention. International cooperation is further needed to expand global information and early warning systems.

Climate change and climate impacts as research challenges
How climate change will impact on societal, political and economic institutions and processes and which dynamics will influence cooperation and conflict or stability and instability has to date not been the focus of extensive research. In this respect, WBGU recommends, for instance, to systematically integrate various social science research strands, such as the study on the causes of (environmental) conflicts and war, research into disaster management as well as governance and public policy studies. In close cooperation with natural scientists this will allow to more accurately reconstruct the impacts of climate change on social order.

Dr. Karin Boschert is research analyst in Political Science at the secretariat of The German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU). Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The flagship report "World in Transition – Climate Change as a Security Risk" and the summary for policy-makers can be downloaded at http://www.wbgu.de/wbgu_jg2007_engl.html


Published in: ECC-Newsletter, August 2007


Climate Diplomacy



  • 28 April 2015. Source: IPS
  • Caribbean Stakes Out “Red Lines” for Paris Climate Talks

    When the international climate change talks ended in Peru last December, the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM), a political and economic union comprising small, developing, climate-vulnerable islands and low-lying nations, left…