›June 30, 2008 // By Rachel WeisshaarThe cost of taking no action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would be “equivalent to a 3.6% loss of the U.S. GDP in 2100,” said Sir Nicholas Stern in his written testimony to the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality last week (archived webcast). “We should emphasize, however, that there are many likely, larger, and deeply damaging, effects which will occur after 2100 and these calculations take no account of the effects on the USA of the damages and devastation which occur outside the USA.”
Stern, who authored the 2006 Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, discussed the non-economic costs of climate change, as well. Extreme climate change scenarios “involve movements of population, and we know that movement of population means not only the hardship around the movements themselves, but also conflict,” he said at the hearing.
Sherri Goodman, general counsel of the Center for Naval Analysis (CNA) Corporation, asserted the interdependence of climate change, national security, and energy dependence. “Numerous DoD studies have concluded that high fuel demand by combat forces detracts from combat capability, makes our forces more vulnerable, diverts combat assets from offense to supply line protection, and increases operating costs,” said Goodman’s testimony.
Energy is also a security issue at home. “The Defense Department is almost completely dependent on electricity from the national grid to power critical missions at fixed installations,” explained Goodman. “The national electric grid is fragile and can be easily disrupted, as happened in the Northeast Blackout of 2003, caused by trees falling onto power lines in Ohio. It affected 50 million people in eight states and Canada, took days to restore and caused a financial loss in the U.S. estimated to be between $4 billion and $10 billion. As extreme weather events become more common [due to climate change], so do the threats to our national electricity supply.”
A day earlier, two other House committees discussed the newly completed—and still classified—National Intelligence Assessment on the U.S. national security implications of climate change.
›“The geopolitics of the twenty-first century may well be the geopolitics of scarcity—of land, of food, of water, of energy,” write the authors of Environmental Change and the New Security Agenda: Implications for Canada’s security and environment, a new report from the International Institute for Sustainable Development. The report says current approaches to environmental issues are “short-sighted” and calls for international acknowledgement that the environment is not a “soft” security issue.
“Climate change is today one of the main drivers of forced displacement,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres told The Guardian in an interview. He warned that the number of people displaced is rising dramatically and will continue to do so, and that global funding has failed to keep pace with the growing challenge. He also noted that existing legal structures to manage refugee flows are out of touch with the increasing influence of climate change.
“The world’s poorest of the poor live in the toughest areas of the planet—the drylands,” says recent ECSP speaker Masego Madzwamuse in the BBC’s latest Green Room feature. She argues that “humanitarian and food relief follow the TV headlines,” and that only sustained and concerted efforts respecting indigenous experience and wisdom will be able to ease the plight of the world’s “dryland dwellers.”
The 2008 EPD WaterAid Madagascar team at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs presented its findings in WaterAid Madagascar: Valuating Economic and Social Impacts of Improved Water and Sanitation Services. The team found that “Madagascar’s development goals could be significantly advanced by adequate water and sanitation services” and encouraged increased public awareness of the links between access to safe water and sanitation services and economic development.
The Population Council has released a new working paper, “Fertility transitions in developing countries: Progress or stagnation?” While recent declines in fertility levels in developing countries have led many to assume that the trend will continue, the paper finds that fertility rates in many countries have in fact stalled, a trend that could have long-term security implications worldwide.
›June 27, 2008 // By Kai CarterPlusNews recently reported on the harmful impact of rising food prices on HIV-positive Ethiopians. According to the nation’s Central Statistical Agency, the price of food has increased 40 percent since last year. The situation has been particularly devastating for those with HIV, as poor nutrition weakens the immune system and “hastens the development of HIV into AIDS.” For those on antiretrovirals, malnutrition reduces the treatment’s effectiveness and increases its toxicity to the body. As Gideon Cohen of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) explained, antiretroviral treatment “can’t work if people aren’t eating enough.”
The consequences extend far beyond HIV-positive individuals themselves, however. For infected mothers who have been advised against breastfeeding, purchasing milk or formula drastically increases household expenses and is often unaffordable. In addition, HIV augments adults’ energy requirements by 10-30 percent. Without sufficient nutrition, it becomes difficult for these individuals—who constitute almost eight percent of Ethiopia’s urban population—to work and provide for their families, undermining food security even further. So as the current food crisis threatens the lives and livelihoods of the HIV-positive in Ethiopia, it also increases the rest of the population’s susceptibility to the virus and other illnesses.
Unfortunately, this problem is not a new one. At a 2006 Wilson Center event, Jordan Dey, director of the U.S. Relations Office at WFP, said, “Hunger weakens immune systems, increases vulnerability to disease, and creates a platform for disability.” A Wilson Center On the Hill event today from 12:00 noon to 1:15 p.m. in the Rayburn House Office Building will examine what the United States can do to relieve the global food crisis.
According to PlusNews, WFP’s HIV/AIDS feeding programme in Ethiopia has exceeded its budget by 44 percent, and has had to borrow funds from other UN programmes. This alarming situation illustrates the severity of the situation in Ethiopia and calls not only for increased humanitarian aid, but also for mechanisms to ensure long-term food security. Nations will not be healthy, prosperous, and peaceful until their people are properly nourished and given the chance to develop to their full capacity.
Sparks Fly at Joint Hearing on National Intelligence Assessment of Climate Change’s National Security Implications›June 26, 2008 // By Rachel Weisshaar
“Climate change alone is unlikely to trigger state failure in any state out to 2030, but the impacts will worsen existing problems—such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership, and weak political institutions,” said National Intelligence Council Chairman Thomas Fingar at yesterday’s joint hearing of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and the House Subcommittee on Intelligence Community Management.
The hearing allowed Democrats and Republicans alike to question Fingar and other witnesses on the newly completed, classified National Intelligence Assessment (NIA) on the national security implications of global climate change through 2030. The NIA relies on the mid-range projections in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report, as well as the expert opinions of scientists from the U.S. government and U.S. universities.
“Climate change could threaten domestic stability in some states, potentially contributing to intra- or, less likely, interstate conflict, particularly over access to increasingly scarce water resources. We judge that economic migrants will perceive additional reasons to migrate because of harsh climates, both within nations and from disadvantaged to richer countries,” said Fingar, adding that the United States should be prepared to assist people fleeing flooded coastal areas in the Caribbean.
Domestically, Fingar warned the representatives to expect severe water scarcity in the Southwest, increasingly frequent wildfires, and powerful storms on the East and Gulf Coasts, which could threaten nuclear power plants, oil refineries, and U.S. military installations. The military could also find its capacity overstretched abroad: AFRICOM will be tasked with responding to more frequent disease outbreaks, food scarcity, and land clashes in sub-Saharan Africa, and the U.S. military in general will be called upon to alleviate increasingly common humanitarian emergencies around the world.
According to Fingar, the NIC plans to analyze three subtopics in greater detail: climate change’s security implications for individual countries; its implications for cooperation and competition among the world’s great powers, including the United States, Russia, China, and India; and the security implications of possible climate change mitigation strategies.
Democrats and Republicans butted heads over whether the NIA was a commendable achievement or a distraction from more important security issues, such as terrorism. At one point, Representative Edward Markey (D-MA), chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, asked Fingar whether he thought climate change could worsen the drivers of terrorism, and Fingar responded that yes, he thought climate change would probably increase the pool of recruits for terrorist activity, which was cause for concern.
Virtually the only issue on which Democrats and Republicans could agree—although for differing reasons—was that the NIA should be declassified. Democrats believed declassification was important so that government agencies and private businesses could begin to prepare for climate change’s impacts, while Republicans argued the NIA should be declassified because they believed the NIC’s analysts, having based their analysis entirely on open-source information, hadn’t contributed anything new to the existing body of knowledge on climate change. Fingar disagreed that secret intelligence is more valuable than open-source information: “Information is information; knowledge is knowledge.”
For her part, Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA), chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Intelligence Community Management, seemed content to ignore the misgivings of some of her colleagues regarding the NIA. “From this day forward, the words ‘climate change’ and ‘international security’ will be forever linked,” she proclaimed.
Selected news coverage:
Wall Street Journal: Global Warming as Security Issue: Intelligence Report Sees Threat
Reuters: Climate change may strain U.S. forces
MSNBC: Climate change could threaten U.S. security
CNN: Global warming could increase terrorism, official says
›June 26, 2008 // By Karen BencalaThe June 2008 Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act (WfP Act) Report to Congress from the U.S. Department of State demonstrates a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the role the U.S. government (USG) can play in addressing the global water crisis. Signed into law in 2005, the WfP Act calls for the development and implementation of a strategy by the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development “to provide affordable and equitable access to safe water and sanitation in developing countries.”
Starting in 2006, the annual report to Congress has outlined the activities and funding levels of USG water-related projects. While this year’s report does the same—and indicates an increase in spending, to a total of $900 million for water-related projects in developing countries in FY2007—it also develops an overarching framework for addressing the global water crisis (see Annex A). Many of the framework’s components have been mentioned in the previous reports, but this report does a better job of tying them together and setting out goals for a U.S. strategic response. The framework is centered on:
- Improving water resources management among competing needs;
- Improving access to water supply and sanitation and promoting better hygiene; and
- Improving water productivity in agriculture and industry.
Key parts of the framework that illustrate a better understanding of the issue are mentions of:
- Regional planning and country-specific development plans for the water sector;
- The crisis-to-development response continuum;
- The need for good governance and management, not just infrastructure improvements;
- The integration of water goals with other development and sectoral goals;
- The need for a participatory and democratic management process; and
- The importance of leveraging activities through partnerships with multilaterals, the private sector, foundations, and international NGOs.
›June 26, 2008 // By Sonia SchmanskiThe 2008 Failed States Index, released on Monday by the Fund for Peace and Foreign Policy magazine, draws attention to the increasingly interconnected spheres of politics, environment, population, and security. The Index contains a number of widely anticipated inclusions, as well as a few surprises. Somalia, ranked third last year, is currently ranked first—a consequence of its weak transitional government, offshore pirates, and a refugee crisis that saw some 700,000 people flee Mogadishu last year alone.
But the news isn’t all bad. Among the bright spots in the Index:=
- Liberia, still progressing on the path to stability after being last year’s most improved country, thanks to robust anti-corruption efforts and the resettlement of almost 100,000 refugees;
- The Ivory Coast, recently rocked by electoral discord, gaining stability as a result of a new peace agreement between between the rebels in the north of the country and the government-controlled south; and
- Haiti, despite recent protests against rising food prices, because of security improvements in Port-Au-Prince.
Both Bangladesh and Pakistan stumbled in the rankings this year, as did Israel, which has been steadily losing ground in the Index for some time as a result of deteriorating conditions in the West Bank and marked economic disparities. Bangladesh saw a number of destabilizing events this year, including postponed elections, a divided government, protracted emergency rule, and the devastating November cyclone, which displaced some 1.5 million people and destroyed vast tracts of agricultural land. Similarly, neighboring Pakistan suffered under the imposition of martial law, with the assassination of Benazir Bhutto creating serious questions about the country’s future.
Natural resources, the Index makes clear, can be a double-edged sword for developing countries. They offer the potential for huge amounts of state revenue, but there is no guarantee that citizens will benefit. Whether that revenue is distributed equitably is a critical determinant of stability. The authors write that “oil continues to be more burden than boon to the world’s most vulnerable states,” as government regimes often use profit from natural resource extraction to finance militaries and suppress opposition rather than foster development. For instance, a former finance minister from Sudan claims that President Oman Hassan al-Bashir directs over two-thirds of Sudan’s oil revenue to defense spending. Record-high food prices and high levels of inflation also contribute to state weakness; combine these factors with unpredictable natural events, many of which have rocked the world in the past year, and, as the Index authors put it, “the cracks of vulnerability open wider.”
›June 24, 2008 // By Sonia Schmanski“Domestic policy alone is not enough; a new U.S. foreign policy to tackle climate change is also essential,” argues a Council on Foreign Relations Independent Task Force in Confronting Climate Change: A Strategy for U.S. Foreign Policy. “Unchecked climate change,” the authors write, “is poised to have wide-ranging and potentially disastrous effects on…human welfare, sensitive ecosystems, and international security.”
The Independent Task Force report comes on the heels of CFR’s widely publicized November 2007 report, “Climate Change and National Security.” ECSP Director Geoff Dabelko spoke with author Joshua Busby in a January podcast examining the links between climate and security.
In an interview, Task Force Director Michael A. Levi said, “climate change is a global problem that requires a global solution.” Rather than remaining “mired in domestic discussions,” as Levi argues the Bush administration has been, the task force calls for a shift in the way policymakers frame the issue of carbon emissions. “The point of this task force,” said Levi, “was to pull back and put this back where it belongs, in the context of American foreign policy.”
The United States, uniquely positioned to “steer international efforts to confront climate change,” must take a leadership role in advancing global policies, Levi said. Unchecked, American emissions will overwhelm any reductions made by other countries. U.S. policymakers have a valuable opportunity to show that environmental responsibility is consistent with robust economic performance, a concern in both developed and developing countries and a leading impediment to addressing climate change.
However, the report strongly cautions against the United States entering into any global framework to which other large emitters, like China and India, are not willing to adhere. The authors argue that the United States should lead through its domestic policies but use a “wide range of levers” to compel other countries to move in the right direction. The challenge of global climate change calls for a multi-pronged solution. “[J]ust like scientists tell us that no one technology is going to solve the problem, there’s no one diplomatic solution that’s going to solve it,” warned Levi. The challenge, then, is translating broad global concern over climate change into collective, and productive, action.
›June 24, 2008 // By Daniel Gleick“The only future is resettlement,” a local Ethiopian official recently told the Economist, commenting on dire conditions in the Goru Gutu district, which is facing starvation following unpredictable rains and insect infestations. “Ethiopia has been synonymous with disastrous famine since the 1980s,” notes Sahlu Haile in “Population, Development, and Environment in Ethiopia“, his award-winning article for Environmental Change and Security Program Report 10. In fact, writes Haile, “the agricultural sector—the mainstay of the national economy—is less productive per capita today than it was 20 years ago.”
If resettlement were to take place in Goru Gutu, roughly 4,000 people would have to be resettled every year, and the government has a budget equal to only a fraction of the task. In addition, previous resettlement attempts have been disastrous. According to Haile, “previous resettlement programs were not voluntary…neither were they based on serious economic, social, and environmental studies.” As a result, they led to hardship for the migrants and to conflict with local populations, who felt threatened by the newcomers.
In “The Missing Links: Poverty, Population, and the Environment in Ethiopia,” Mogues Worku points out that in coming years, a rapidly growing population—the result of a lack of access to family planning and education among women—will put additional stress on the country’s ability to feed itself. In addition, Worku explains that climate change “has intensified these environmental problems by altering the region’s rainfall patterns.” Ethiopia’s population and climate challenges will likely lead to additional pressure for resettlement, paving the way for possible conflict. There are many national and international NGOs doing impressive work in Ethiopia on food security, family planning, sustainable livelihoods, and other issues, but much work remains to be done.
Join the Conversation
- Promoting Years of Sustainability: Responding to Mega Trends Wednesday, April 22, 2015
- Nudging Our Way towards Energy Efficiency: Psychology, Behavior and the Environment Thursday, March 26, 2015
- Islands as Champions of Resilience Wednesday, March 25, 2015
- Rural Women in Latin America Define Their Own Kind of Feminism
- Queensland researchers develop world-first water recycling system, discover valuable worm industry
- El Salvador fights to protect its water and people from 'free trade'
- Burma's Myeik archipelago under threat from overfishing – in pictures
- Tribunal Ruling Could Dent “Monster Boat” Trawling in West African Waters