With almost 800 million people currently lacking access to clean water and two-thirds of the world’s population projected to face conditions of severe water stress by 2025, disputes over water are a growing global concern. But while dwindling water supplies sharpen focus on conflict, long-term peacebuilding opportunities are often overlooked. [Video Below]
At last month’s launch of the USAID Water and Conflict Toolkit at the Wilson Center, Gidon Bromberg explained that the toolkit is about much more than just conflict. “It’s put very much in forefront the possibilities of peacebuilding,” he says in this week’s podcast. “Water is an opportunity in areas where there aren’t many opportunities.”
In 2008 and 2010, the price of many basic food stuffs soared, sparking a series of riots and food crises around the world. People in the poorest countries – those living with the smallest margins – were most affected, while the economies of developed nations were able to absorb the price changes. According to Notre Dame’s Global Adaptation Index, how climate change will impact different countries depends not only on their vulnerability to physical changes, but also their ability to absorb these impacts. [Video Below]
›January 7, 2014 // By Laurie Mazur
›October 3, 2012 // By Kate Diamond
Eight years from now, the Gaza Strip will have “virtually no reliable access to sources of safe drinking water, standards of healthcare and education will have continued to decline, and the vision of affordable and reliable electricity for all will have become a distant memory for most,” according to a United Nations report released last month. The bleak assessment concludes that without immediate action to address immense and interconnected economic, demographic, environmental, infrastructure, and social challenges facing Gazans, “the already high number of poor, marginalized and food-insecure people depending on assistance will not have changed, and in all likelihood will have increased.”
The United Nations biannual population projections are some of the most (if not the most) widely used numbers in demography. Researchers and policymakers alike rely on the figures to plan for present and future challenges. But few consider the story behind the statistics. Where does the data come from? The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) recently released a short documentary on conducting censuses in challenging environments, with a spotlight on Indonesia, Chad, the Palestinian Territories, Belarus, and Bolivia.
Emmanuel Karagiannis: Mediterranean Oil and Gas Discoveries Could Change Regional Alignments, Global Energy Equation›
“The discovery of gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean comes at a time when world demand for energy is growing rapidly and many are questioning the reliability of supplies from North Africa and the Middle East,” said Emmanuel Karagiannis, assistant professor of Russian and post-Soviet politics at the University of Macedonia, in an interview at the Wilson Center.The newly-discovered fields contain about 122 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas reserves, 25 trillion of which are located within Israeli territorial waters. “That’s twice the reserves Libya has,” according to Karagiannis. The remaining fields have been claimed by the Republic of Cyprus, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Syria, and Lebanon.
Europe currently depends on Russia for most of its gas supplies, so the new fields could provide an “important alternative source for European economies,” said Karagiannis.
The discovery also has the potential to increase stability in the region by serving as an incentive for nations to work together. “For example, Israel and Cyprus have come closer to each other in many respects, including military cooperation,” Karagiannis said. Greece and Israel have also strengthened their relationship, in part due to the historical relationship between Cyprus and Greece but also because the latter could serve as an energy hub to transport gas throughout Europe, he said. “In effect Israel, Greece, and Cyprus could form a new axis of stability in the region.”
“Turkey can also play a significant part in the business of transporting energy resources to Europe,” Karagiannis said, but Syria and Lebanon, the two other countries that lie adjacent to the newly discovered gas reserves, are less likely to benefit in the near future from the find, given their current political circumstances. “It’s very difficult to imagine their participation in the regional energy projects,” he said. Lebanon has tried and failed to sell offshore exploratory licenses twice due to its lack of a state petroleum administration, while the current uprising against President Bashar al-Assad is preventing any progress in Syria.
In part as a result of these political challenges, the gas fields also have the potential to generate conflict in the region. There will be a divide between “haves and have-nots,” explained Karagiannis. According to a report by the Institute for National Strategic Studies, “piping Israeli gas to the RoC [Republic of Cyprus] and then onto Turkey, which could be the gateway to the European market, is unlikely due to current tensions between Ankara, the RoC, and Tel Aviv.” Since the discovery of the fields, “Turkey has already issued military threats against Cyprus in order to stop the gas exploration process that is currently taking place in the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone,” Karagiannis said. The Israeli government issued a response to the threat, stating that they are committed to protecting energy infrastructure in the region.
The first new natural gas field in the region is expected to begin full-scale production this year, with two additional fields coming on-line over the next six years.
Keenan Dillard is a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point and an intern with the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program.
Sources: Institute for National Strategic Studies, Noble Energy Inc., Turkish Weekly, U.S. Geological Survey.
›July 6, 2012 // By Graham NorwoodAs part of the recently-concluded Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) presented a new report last week, titled Climate Change, Vulnerability, and Human Mobility: Perspectives of Refugees From the East and Horn of Africa. The report was created in order to “understand the extent to which refugees and IDPs (internally displaced persons) in the East and Horn of Africa have perceived, experienced, and responded to climatic events and trends in recent years.”
In order to achieve this goal, UNHCR and its collaborators (including the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security, the London School of Economics, and the University of Bonn) interviewed approximately 150 refugees and IDPs in parts of Ethiopia and Uganda.
While the narrative is more anecdotal than data-driven, it nevertheless identifies several apparent trends in climate-related migration:
Overwhelmingly, stories of mobility associated with moving away from worsening impacts associated with climate variability followed a specific pattern. That is, where movement related to climatic stressors did occur, such movement was taken as a last resort (only after all efforts to remain and adopt other methods of adaptation had been exhausted), particularly where the land being left was self-owned and only after all efforts to remain and try a number of alternative forms of adaptation had failed. Where movement occurred, in most cases it was likely to be internal, circular, and temporary rather than cross-border and permanent.Stories of international migration were rare, and generally occurred either because migrants already lived near a border and were familiar with the area, or because they had encountered violent conflict (often of a political nature) during an earlier intra-state relocation.
The report also mentions that a majority of those interviewed claimed to have noticed significant changes in weather patterns over a 10- to 15-year period. In fact, many interviewees frequently claimed to be able to distinguish “normal” climate variability from more “permanent” changes.
Significantly, Climate Change, Vulnerability, and Human Mobility highlights several ongoing sources of debate and controversy regarding the issue of climate-induced migration as well.
The links between climate change, migration, and violent conflict are not well understood. And the question of whether climate change precipitates conflict or merely exacerbates it is still unresolved, though research on the subject is ongoing.
The terminology used to describe climate migrants remains a hotly-contested issue as well. While terms like “environmental refugee” and the especially popular “climate refugee” can make for good headlines, the UNHCR report strongly disapproves of such terms, given that the word “refugee” has a very specific legal definition.
Indeed, there is still much debate over how to classify climate migrants. It has been pointed out, for instance, that it is virtually impossible to separate out the various factors that induce migration, and questions as to whether migration is forced or voluntary also persist. For the most part, the UNHCR report shies away from such contentious questions, aiming instead to present a general and “human” narrative designed to call attention to the plight of climate migrants.
Definitional debates aside, the issue of climate-induced migration has been in headlines recently. The Asian Development Bank reported in March that 42 million people were displaced in the region during the last two years due to storms, floods, and other extreme weather events. And Israel signaled a tougher stance on immigration by deporting South Sudanese refugees in the wake of a major Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection report warning of future climate-induced migration.
The particular vulnerability of women too is drawing increased interest. An article in Environmental Research Letters points out that “women tend to be poorer, less educated, have a lower health status, and have limited direct access to or ownership of natural resources,” and will therefore be disproportionately affected by climate change. Gender disparities must be accounted for in policymaking then, to ensure that future climate migration policies are equitable and inclusive, the author, Namrata Chindarkar, argues.
The challenges of defining and measuring the phenomenon remain – the UN Environment Program’s 2006 prediction of 50 million climate migrants by 2010 has not come true, and has even been a source of some embarrassment for the organization – but the recent UNHCR report is a timely reminder that climate-induced migration remains a major issue with tremendous long-term implications.
Sources: Asian Development Bank, Environmental Research Letters, Human Rights Education Association (HREA), The Jerusalem Post, The New Republic, National Geographic, OECD, Scientific American, Der Spiegel, UNHCR, The Washington Post.
Photo Credit: Displaced Somalis, courtesy of UNHCR.
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