Climate change is not just an environmental issue in South Asia; it is also a major security concern. When overlaid with pre-existing domestic distress and inter-state rivalries that roil the region, it could well act as a tipping point that triggers or magnifies violent conflict. But appropriate policy responses, including institution-building, data-sharing and embracing a rapid low-carbon pathway, provide a way forward.
These are some of the conclusions we reached in a recent report published by the Expert Group of the International Military Council on Climate and Security titled “Climate Security and the Strategic Energy Pathway in South Asia.” The report examines the impact of climate change in three areas – the India-Pakistan rivalry, the China-India rivalry and within domestic security arenas in South Asia.
The United States has made food security a key theme of its UN Security Council Presidency for the month of March, and today will chair a UNSC open debate on the links between conflict and food security. In many ways, the Council’s focus on food security is a closely-related continuation of the UK’s emphasis on climate security during its presidency last month. The World Climate and Security Report 2020 identified the deep linkages between climate change consequences and food insecurity across all regions of the globe.
According to the Global Report on Food Crises for 2020, over 135 million people faced acute food insecurity in 2019. The report characterized what it considered significant drivers of acute food insecurity as: conflict (affecting 77 million people in 22 countries), weather extremes (affecting some 34 million people in 25 countries), and economic shocks (affecting 24 million people in eight countries).
By Rachel Fleishman, Shiloh Fetzek, Andrea Rezzonico, Sarang Shidore
Climate change is not news in Asia: Storms, floods, heat and wildfires regularly dominate headlines. Less appreciated, however, is how climate affects national and regional security – and the need for defense, foreign affairs and energy policymakers to unite with coordinated, systemic responses to prevent the worst outcomes. The authors of two reports on climate security challenges in South Asia and Southeast Asia by the Expert Group of the International Military Council on Climate and Security in Washington, DC, highlight their key findings.
In a conversation with Cimpatico Studios host, Doug Parsons, Hon. Sherri Goodman, Secretary General of the IMCCS and Senior Strategist at the Center for Climate and Security (CCS), highlighted the importance of “climatizing security” in order to identify and respond to heightening climate risks and lead by example in climate change mitigation (e.g. adopting clean energy infrastructure). The conversation followed three major threads: the climate threat multiplier and its effect on the military, the role of international institutions in managing climate security and advancing clean energy, and the implications of U.S. President Biden’s recent executive order on the future of climate security.
Climate security has featured prominently on the world stage in recent weeks–first at the Munich Security Conference on the day the United States officially rejoined the Paris Agreement and then at the UNSC high-level meeting on climate security chaired by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The IMCCS’s Director, and Center for Climate and Security’s Deputy Director, Erin Sikorsky, joined the BBC World News two times to put these developments in context, and discuss some parts of the world where the climate-security nexus is particularly acute. You can watch her interviews here:
Washington, D.C., February 16, 2021 — The Center for Climate and Security, an institute of the Council on Strategic Risks, released a new report today entitled “A Climate Security Plan for Canada.” This report looks at the challenges of climate change through the frames of Canada’s existing security and climate strategies, recommending that Canada develop a comprehensive plan, coordinated within its federal agencies, to proactively address the security threats and risks posed by climate change.
“Unlike the United States, Canada already has a mature climate strategy, but security threats and responses to those threats can be better integrated into that strategy,” said John Conger, Director of the Center for Climate and Security and a co-author of the report. “And while its security strategy recognizes climate change issues, those threats can be addressed in a more holistic way. The two strategies need to be knitted together to create a coherent climate security strategy.”
“Canada is keenly aware of how climate change is increasing security threats in the Arctic, and has focused its national security establishment – and all of its Arctic policies – on addressing those threats. Climate change will affect Canadian security interests across the board, domestically and internationally, from more disasters to instability and conflict risk. This plan sets out how the Government of Canada can meet these threats,” said Shiloh Fetzek, Senior Fellow for International Affairs at the Center for Climate and Security and a co-author of the report.
Washington, D.C. Feb 3, 2021 — Today, the Expert Group of the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS) released two new reports, one on South Asia and the other on Southeast Asia, warning that climate change is threatening stability and security in the region, and calling for urgent action to both drastically reduce carbon emissions and prevent climate security risks.
The IMCCS is a group of senior military leaders, security experts, and security institutions across the globe – currently hailing from 38 countries in every hemisphere – dedicated to anticipating, analyzing, and addressing the security risks of a changing climate. The IMCCS is administered by the Center for Climate and Security, an institute of the Council on Strategic Risks, with the participation of a consortium of international partners. The two new reports complement two previously released documents, The World Climate and Security Report 2020 and Climate and Security in the Indo-Asia Pacific, with an added emphasis on the energy-climate-security nexus.
Washington DC, January 27, 2021 — A new report, Climate Change and Security in the Arctic, released today by the Center for Climate and Security (CCS), an Institute of the Council on Strategic Risks (CSR), together with the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), assesses the growing security risks posed by a warming climate in one of the most rapidly changing regions on Earth. The report concludes that the risks posed by uncurbed warming include the potential for new conflicts, the breakdown of multilateral cooperation, and rising great power tensions. The analysis looks at two future warming scenarios (curbed and uncurbed) to project security threats alongside potential environmental changes deemed likely in the High North by 2030.
The analysis identifies a number of key Arctic climate security risks across both warming scenarios, but notes that the risks are more severe and more likely in an “uncurbed” warming scenario. In a “curbed” scenario in which the world takes rapid action to curb climate change, including by transforming energy use, decarbonizing the global economy, and building international institutions to manage climate risks, the Arctic is likely to see fewer opportunities for severe security risks. The report recommends integrating this climate risk analysis into Arctic planning strategies into the coming years, and avoiding the uncurbed warming scenario.
The International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS) is delighted to welcome Erin Sikorsky as its new Director. As head of the IMCCS Secretariat, Ms. Sikorsky will be leading IMCCS operations, supported by Kate Guy, IMCCS Deputy Director. She will also be supporting Sherri Goodman, Secretary General of the IMCCS, and General Middendorp, Chair of the IMCCS, in their leadership of the IMCCS – a robust network of military and security experts concerned about climate change. Ms. Sikorsky will also serve as Deputy Director of the Center for Climate and Security (CCS), an institute of the Council on Strategic Risks (CSR).
Previously, she was the Deputy Director of the Strategic Futures Group on the US National Intelligence Council (NIC), where she co-authored the quadrennial Global Trends report and led the US intelligence community’s environmental and climate security analysis. She is also the founding chair of the Climate Security Advisory Council, a Congressionally-mandated group designed to facilitate coordination between the intelligence community and US government scientific agencies on climate security matters. Ms. Sikorsky worked in the US intelligence community for over a decade. Prior to joining the NIC, she led teams covering a range of issues related to the Middle East and Africa. Ms. Sikorsky earned a Master of International Affairs at Columbia University, and a B.A. in government from Smith College.
Ms. Sikorsky brings an incredible depth of experience and expertise on climate security to the IMCCS, and we could not be more thrilled to work with her.