Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Scent of Security Concerns at Copenhagen

The Copenhagen Agreement, unlike Kyoto, is operational from the start. The goal of limiting emissions to an increase of 2 degrees Celsius aims to cut in half the increase in IPCC warming forecasts of about 4 degrees Celsius (A2 scenario). The policy calls for adaptation to meet the challenges that the accepted rise of 2 degrees Celsius poses. There is reason to believe that adaptation the accepted warming will cause social disruptions that may have security implications.

Security concerns are muted but apparent in the Copenhagen agreement. Tucked away in Article 3, is the urgency in “reducing vulnerability in developing countries”. Vulnerability in this context suggests that deteriorating personal security can have multiplier affects, particularly livelihood wars.

A further refinement points to three groups of countries particularly vulnerable: (1) least developed countries, (2) small island developing states, and (3) Africa. This reflects three lines of causal transmission from climate change to vulnerability.
The first area of concern is the least developed country that lacks the resources to adapt. The result could be a failed state or a state that is on the brink of failing. Climate changes are already encumbering many of these countries so this focus ought to start with them in a short-term perspective.

The second factor is the rising sea that may pose an existential threat to some countries, some of whom are in a least developed country status. Adaptation for them is limited insofar as some warming is accepted, accompanied by an inevitable sea level rise. Adaptation for these countries, some of which also have high population growth rates, translates into some orderly process of migration. This process is middle to long-term in scope.

The third area of focus is on Africa, and is largely redundant with the least developed countries. Most other members of this group are in South and Southeast Asia (Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Myanmar, for example). The least developed, African, island countries of Sao Tome and Principe and Cape Verde show up on all three lists so should be the first places for action.

The adaptive response is for developed countries to provide sustainable “financial resources, technology, and capacity-building”. The latter term is broad enough to apply to adaptive counter-measures that relate to security concerns. It is inevitable that climate change projects will increasingly take on cases of existing, erupting, and looming crises that have the potential for conflict.

12 comments:

christopherspielmann said...

good read james. it seems like most people talk about climate change and what they can do to curb it, but in actuality people should be expecting climate change, and what they will do when it does happen. i agree with you regarding preventative action. if our governments would take the initiative to help, when the time comes i believe those initiatives will go a long way. do you have ideas on what the common citizen can do to prepare?

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Jim Lee said...

Whether caused by humans or nature, the climate is and has always changed. We know this because science is better, on this an other dimensions of understanding the world around us.

We are getting better at planning for the future, but policy is still short-term in orientation. This is true for climate change, health care, immigration, and a host of issues facing our future.

Do countries and governments with long-term strategies for growth and development work better than those that do not? Or is it the mix of the two that matters? I think the future should matter more.

Cliamte Change and Conflict Site
http://www1.american.edu/ted/ICE/climatechange/hotcoldwar.html

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