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The Effects of Climatic Change on Security


Environmental security, a relatively recent concept, has provoked intense debate amongst theorists of international relations. What are the indicators for environmental security? To what extent is the scarcity of a natural resource likely to cause a "green war"? Are crises, such as Darfur, likely to be more frequent?
Taking into account the amount of land soon to be engulfed by rising sea levels, is climatic change then a threat to national or international security? To what extent are these climatic disturbances going to represent the drop that causes the vase to overflow, the vase being already full to the brim with demographic pressure, soil erosion, deforestation, and diminishing sources of drinking water and fish stocks. Do we include amongst these new threats States that are demanding compensation for environmental damage perpetuated by other States, or the attempts of those who seek to delocalize their pollution? Or those who would rely on military solutions in situations of environmental insecurity?

A new context?

"Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future."
Attributed to Niels Bohr, Danish physicist (1885-1962)

There is much research that attempts to establish links between climate change or disturbances, "human security," migrations, and armed conflicts.(1)
However, by way of an introduction, we will recall here the road that has been travelled in recent decades. During the 1980s, just prior to the ending of the Cold War, the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts on Disarmament and Development wrote: "It is now clear, without any doubt, that resource shortages and ecological constraints pose threats, real and imminent, to the future well -being of all peoples and all nations. These problems have a primarily non -military character and it is absolutely necessary that they be treated as such."(2)
Is the military option still the only one imaginable when we speak of security? In 1983, the Danish political scientist Barry Buzan in his work People, States, and Fear, proposed 'revisiting' the security field and constructed a five-part typology of security issues. Besides military security, Buzan identified other forms of security:

1) political security, which concerns the institutional stability of the State and of its political regime;
2) economic security, which concerns the conditions for maintaining the well-being and prosperity of the State;
3) environmental security, as protection of the conditions for human life on earth;
4) lastly, social security, which seeks to protect against attacks on the culture and language of a political entity, or its identity.(3)
The formalisation of the concept of environmental security in international relations theory occurred at the beginning of the 1990s. The post -Cold War period made it more and more evident that military threats were not the only elements of insecurity in the world. In 2005, the former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, had asked in the framework of the High-Level Panel on Threats (the Challenges and Conflicts report) that the environment be recognized as a source of conflict, which was a cultural revolution insofar as questions of environmental security are not mentioned in the UN Charter. Since then, the International Panel on Climate Change and its President, Rajendra Patchauri, have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In the Brundtland Report, generated in 1987 by the World Commission on Environment and Development, later known as the Brundtland Commission and presided over by Gro H. Brundtland, the impact of climate is not absent. Their report, entitled "Our Common Future," notes:
"Environmental threats to security are now beginning to emerge on a global scale. The most worrisome of these stem from the possible consequences of global warming caused by the atmospheric build-up of carbon dioxide and other gases. Any such climatic change would quite probably be unequal in its effects, disrupting agricultural systems in areas that provide a large proportion of the world's cereal harvests and perhaps triggering mass population movements in areas where hunger is already endemic. Sea levels may rise during the first half of the next century enough to radically change the boundaries between coastal nations and to change the shapes and strategic importance of international waterways -effects both likely to increase international tensions."(4)
In June 2009, almost twenty years later, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution concerning the harmful effects of climate change and their implications for international security (5). 
This was the first time that the delegations of different member countries of the concert of nations reached a consensus on the issue and adopted a resolution which established the link between climate change and international security.In the words of the UN resolution A/RES/63/281, sponsored by more than 90 countries, adopted on June 3thd 2009, the General Assembly "Deeply concerned that the adverse impacts of climate change, including sea -level rise, could have possible security implications; Invites the relevant organs of the United Nations, as appropriate and within their respective mandates, to intensify their efforts in considering and addressing climate change, including its possible security implications...."

The Ongoing Debate

The December 2007 report of the German Federal Government's Advisory Council on Global Environmental Change (WBGU - Wissenschaftlicher Beirat der Bundesregierung Globale Umweltveränderungen) is a point of reference. The report, entitled "World in Transition: Climate Change as a Security Risk," is based on the work of international experts and organisations such as the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).It concluded that if climate change is not brought under control, it is likely to aggravate old tensions and to provoke new ones in certain parts of the world which could then sink into violence, conflict, and war. Professor Hans Schellnhuber, the main author of the report who is Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and a professor at Oxford University, wrote, "Without the means to combat it, climate change will destroy the capacities of adaptation of a number of societies in the decades to come. This could in turn lead to destabilization and violence that will endanger national and international security at an entirely new level."6
In terms of expertise, we can refer to various schools of thought. According to the "American School" represented by Arthur Westing, environmental changes and resource shortages contribute largely to the emergence of armed conflicts. Other institutes are working on this sensitive and controversial issue; they try to assess the influence of environmental problems on the emergence of armed conflicts and on the course of events, and to evaluate the influence of the management of resources on peace and security, whether at the national level (civil wars) or the international level, considering that each indirectly touches upon the climate question.
The pioneers in this realm include the Toronto Group around Thomas Homer-Dixon. The Toronto Group acts as a programme of studies, at the University of Toronto, on peace and conflict. The conceptual and theoretical bases of the work were presented in two articles published in the journal International Security (1991, 1994). The work of this group puts at our disposal a range of interpretations of phenomena and their consequences by seeking to show how resource shortages and violent conflicts are inseparable, based upon case studies that include Mexico (Chiapas), the Middle-East (Gaza), Pakistan, and South Africa. Amongst the other authoritative institutions, mention should be made of the group created by the Environment and Conflicts Project (ENCOP) established by Bächler and Spillman of the Polytechnic University (ETH) in Zurich. The ENCOP has focused its empirical studies on trying to establish the correlations between environmental degradation and the escalation of conflicts.
To expand this list, we must take account of the work of the Oslo Group around Nils Petter Gleditsch. This group is composed of researchers from the Peace Research Institute of Oslo  (PRIO), and uses statistical methodologies; for these researchers, ecological and sociological variables are connected. Finally, there is also the GECHS-UCI established in 1999 at the University of California, Irvine with support from the Center for Global Peace and Conflict Studies (GPACS) by Dr. Richard A. Matthew. GECHS-UCI has the following objectives:
a) to undertake original, interdisciplinary and participatory research; b) to collaborate with academics and policymakers in developing countries; c) to develop policy recommendations; and d) to educate the public on the ways in which environmental change interacts with other transnational forces to affect the lives and welfare of individuals and groups around the world, especially in developing countries. It focuses on the "capacities of adaptation" of human societies,(7) but challenges the neo-Malthusian notions of 'carrying capacity' according to which human population growth and per capita rates of consumption will cause more and more demands, shortages and distributional conflicts (8).
Before reviewing the issues that are subject to debate, we can already identify some key points from the different approaches. To summarize, environmental factors are rarely, perhaps never, the only cause of violent conflicts. It is impossible to isolate environmental factors from their contexts, from the socio-economic, political, and cultural factors which are inter-related and interact.
In the case of civil wars, intra-state wars, which today represent the majority of conflicts in the world, the factors leading to war, for the most part, are explained through structural contexts: the political exclusion of certain ethnic groups - or 'the micro-nations' as they are called by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathaï - the weakening of economies, without forgetting the collapse of the system created by the Cold War. We could say that the structural causes of conflict, such as the withdrawal of the State, the emergence of markets of violence, the exclusion or extermination of certain population groups, find themselves reinforced and accelerated by ecological problems and the loss of resources like water and soil. It is these factors which lead the political scientist Halvard Buhaug (from PRIO Institute in Oslo) to write "the principal causes of civil war are political, and not environmental"(9). According to his findings, there is virtually no correlation between climate-change indicators such as temperature and rainfall variability and the frequency of civil wars over the past 50 years in sub-Saharan Africa.
So far, there has been no evidence that environmental problems are the direct cause of war – that is to say, there have been no 'environmental wars' as manifestations of the most extreme form of inter-state conflict. At least no evidence exists to date to suggest any unambiguous causal links between environmental change and violent inter-state conflict. The greatest danger posed by climatic disturbances is not the degradation of ecosystems in itself, but rather the disintegration of human society brought about by widespread famine, mass migrations, and recurring conflicts over resources.

The disintegration of human society

In the next twenty years, the world will be adversely affected by famines, and available food-stocks are not sufficient when facing these climatic changes.
Bohle (1994) make the link between food security and climate change, and Döös (1994) insists on the fact the climate change will lead to exacerbating food shortages caused by soil degradation. Molvaer (1991) had foreseen that soil degradation would become a source of conflict between farmers and herders in the Horn of Africa(10).
Even while being the continent the least responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, Africa is considered as running the highest risk of being subject to conflicts generated by climate change; this risk emanates from the economic fact that the continent's economic stability is based on sectors that are themselves dependent on climate (such as rain -fed agriculture). An example is Niger: 75 % of the population lives on 12 % of its territory in the South, which creates a heavy pressure on an already fragile environment. Desertification threatens an agricultural economy which employs more than 90 % of Niger's inhabitants. The precarious nature of the agricultural sector has obliged the country to import 60 % of its food requirements. From another angle, concerning the vulnerability of Africa, it is necessary to evaluate its past history: ethnic and political conflict and disputes linked to resources. At the dawn of the 21st century, the wars in Africa have caused more casualties than all the others combined taking place in the rest of the world over the same period.
Lastly, the general link between the level of economic development of a given country and its propensity for conflict is recognized (11). Some studies have been undertaken to evaluate the impact of economic growth, or absence of growth, on conflicts. A recently issued report by the Brookings Institute, generated jointly with researchers from the Wilson Center and other specialized institutes, found that, in the years to come, there would be little correlation between violent conflicts and variables such as political repression, ethnic fragmentation, colonial history, or population density. Rather, it would be economic factors which would be determinant: "a 1 % drop in the GNP raised the probability of conflict (civil conflict) by more than 2 points"(12).
Even if the demand for the available resources becomes more insistent, successful economies were less likely to experience conflicts, and more likely than weaker economies to avoid resorting to war as a remedy (13).

Migratory Phenomenon

Towards the end of 2007, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) counted close to 67 million persons displaced through force due to reasons of conflict, persecutions, and natural disasters. Nearly half of those, approximately 30 million, migrated on account of natural catastrophes and another 30 million on account of armed conflict; more than 30 % of the world's refugees are displaced persons in Africa, and are accommodated - because they are neighbours - by other African countries (14). Twenty million people, according to the UN figures from 2007, had already been displaced following the erosion of arable lands. According to a report emanating from the British humanitarian organisation, Christian Aid, entitled "The Human Tide: The Real Migratory Crisis," there are presently 163 million people who have had to leave their homes as a result of conflict, natural disasters, and massive infrastructure development projects, such as mines and dams(15).
The estimate of 200 million climate refugees by 2050, forecast by Dr. Myers, is now a figure of reference, even if he himself admits that it is based on "major extrapolations." Myers was one of the first (in 1989, and then in 1993) to predict that climate change would lead to vast population movements. These estimates have been appearing in various publications emanating from such organisations as the GIEC, in the Stern Report, the International Organisation for Migrations (IOM) based in Geneva, and the UN's Institute for the Environment and Human Security. All forecast that migrations will involve 50 million persons in 2010, rising to 200 million in 2050, and towards 700 million in the years beyond. To understand this phenomenon better and put it in context, it means that one out of 45 persons in the world will have been displaced due to climate change between now and 2050. However, no-one can know with any certainty which part of the human population will be most affected by climate change. The present estimates run from 25 million to 1 billion displaced persons between now and 2050.
McGregor (1994) has suggested the need to ensure that the movements of population do not affect, in turn, access to food resources in the areas where "climate refugees" seek refuge or relocate (16). However, this point is rarely emphasized. The importance of the issues linked to migration is in part due to the impending disappearance of certain land masses (islands for example), whose inhabitants will not survive the rises in sea level. It is emphasized that these exiles, who are persecuted by natural elements 'aggravated' by abusive usage of the planet's resources, do not have 'refugee' status. In fact, there is a fear that the distinction between refugees fleeing from war and those who will flee from their environment, between political refugees and climate refugees, will no longer be relevant insofar as the number of new wars will increase, as a result of environmental degradation. Legal experts - such as those at the University of Limoges Research Centre on Environmental, Planning, and Urban Law - have written much on this subject (17). 

From another perspective, the French frigate captain Jérôme Origny, during a demography seminar directed by the University President G. F. Dumont, noted that "This is to ensure that the 200 million candidates for climate immigration will not be followed by billions"(18).If one believes the forecasts of researchers who mix with policy-makers, and who serve certain ambitions that are far from academic considerations, mass migrations are flows that will affect everybody.

According to the writers Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall (in their Pentagon report), "drought and/or frost will push populations towards the South or towards the interiors of land masses, provoking or amplifying conflicts between States situated in turbulent zones like countries of Europe, the United States and Canada, India and Pakistan, and even in China and Africa"(19).
Nonetheless, this literature omits to specify that these migrations will most often be internal to the countries concerned, as shown in studies of population reactions to floods and droughts in Mozambique or Ghana. Of the 200 million people referred to, around one million of them will be led to seek refuge in a country other than their own, which represents 0.5 % of the total. There is a consensus regarding the typology of the conflicts believed to involve an environmental element and the climatic element that emphasized it. They are predominantly intra-state conflicts; even when they can be categorized as cross-border conflicts, they are generally not classical inter-state conflicts in the sense of large-scale wars between countries but rather regionally limited clashes at the sub-national level, such as between States that border on the same rivers and lakes.

Conflicts over Resources

In stating that humanity will experience mass migrations, can solutions other than violent ones to the problems of the refugees be imagined, given the tensions which surround the issues involved: the right to water and its exploitation. When we speak of resources, we inevitably think of natural elements like water, air, and land that are essential for the survival of any human community. Thus , they constitute fertile ground for many kinds of environmental antagonism.
If we are to believe UNEP experts, since 1990 at least eighteen conflicts have been fuelled by the exploitation of natural resources. Some recent studies have suggested that over the course of the last sixty years, at least 40 % of all interstate conflicts involved a link to natural resources. Some civil wars such as those of Liberia, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of Congo have been centered around "high-value" resources such as wood, diamonds, gold, minerals and oil. Other conflicts, for instance in Darfur (the conflict here is linked to climate, according to one of the UNEP reports) and in the Middle-East with Palestine and Lebanon, are about the control of scarce resources like fertile land and water. Tensions will increase as a result of the high growth rates of emerging economies and their demands for uranium, cobalt, titanium, zinc, and other rare earth metals which are increasing by 10% per year (20).
In the same vein, access to certain raw materials and/or supply infrastructures – especially pipelines - constitutes a sensitive area of "globalised insecurity". We can see this with Iraq, Nigeria, and also Afghanistan (21). The growing importance of oil, natural gas, and uranium production is itself a source of instability, acting as a magnet that attracts the arms trade and external interventions.

"Green" conflicts and the stakes linked to water

In "Africa - Up for Smoke," Andrew Simms illustrates the vulnerability of African ecosystems to global climate change with the situation of the Nile, noting that "most scenarios estimate a decrease in river flow of up to more than 75 per cent by the year 2100."(22). Simms then cites a 2003 article in the journal Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, which states that "a reduction in the annual flow of the Nile of above 20 per cent would interrupt normal irrigation " and he concludes: "Such a situation could cause conflicts because the present distribution of water, negotiated during a period of high flow, would become untenable"(23). 
Sudan has been seeking to irrigate the Sahel but Ethiopia has made clear that any Sudanese attempt to divert water from the Nile would provoke a military response(24). Along the same lines, Egypt has threatened to oppose Sudan or Ethiopia if one or the other attempts to manipulate the waters that feed the Nile.
Professor Frédéric Lasserre, at Laval University (Quebec) and geopolitical expert of "blue gold" (water), presents scenarios of a synergistic correlation between the scarcity of water and what he qualifies as "hydraulic conflicts" or "water wars." He claims that climatic disturbances will exacerbate pre-existing tensions. On the other hand, the willingness to settle disputes between opposing parties is manifest, whether it be over the usage of "blue gold" between Israelis and Palestinians or the co-operation between Israelis and Egyptians in the context of the Mediterranean Action Plan. Since 1953, Israel and Jordan have held secret informal meetings on the management of the Jordan River, even though the two countries were officially at war from 1948 to 1994 (the date when their peace treaty was signed). The Indus River Commission survived two major wars between India and Pakistan, providing further proof of a willingness to settle water disputes.
Another textbook case of regulating water conflicts is the sharing of the Shatt Al-Arab between Arabs and Persians from the 16th Century. Certainly, there have been in the recent past a conflict between two nations wishing to establish their regional supremacy, but co-operation has tended to prevail. Admittedly, scenarios exist in which States would be prepared weapons in hand, to obtain from a neighbour a vital resource of which they are deprived. The UN has identified about 300 potential areas of "hydro-conflict" based on common groundwater and trans-boundary Rivers. However, it cannot be said with certainty that the use of armed conflict will be the de facto response to future water supply problems. In reality, it is rather the opposite trend which has emerged from current historical research. Researchers at Oregon State University have created a databank of all reported interactions (be they co-operative or conflictual) between two (or more) countries that have been provoked by water issues over the last 50 years. The results indicate that the rate of co-operation massively exceeded the cases of 'serious' conflict. During this period, only 37 disputes involved the use of violence, 30 of which were between Israel and one of its neighbours. Outside the Middle-East, the researchers found that only 5 violent conflicts had erupted while as many as 157 treaties had been negotiated and signed. Between 1945 and 1999, the cases of co-operation have been two times more numerous than the cases of conflict between States sharing the same water source (25).

Green conflicts and raw materials

The overexploitation of natural resources is likely to boost global tensions to a degree hitherto unknown as nations seek to satisfy their needs for energy, water, food, and raw materials. Global energy consumption could double by 2030. The countries of the European Union today depend on productions zones situated in the Middle-East, Africa, and Russia for more than 75 % of their oil consumption. The figures are comparable for gas. Countries with high economic growth rates, like India and China, are searching for new sources of supply all over the planet.
Competition and perhaps conflicts could result from tensions that become too strong and are not regulated.
The US military has warned that surplus capacity production of oil could lead to severe shortages by 2015, with significant political and economic consequences. This energy crisis, elaborated in the JOE (Joint Operating Environment) 2010 of the American Joint Forces Command, came just as the price of petrol had reached record levels. The report specifies that in 2012, the surplus capacity production could completely disappear and, from 2015, the production deficit would be close to 10 million barrels per day. It adds: "Such an economic slowdown would exacerbate other unresolved tensions, push fragile and failing states further down the path toward collapse, and perhaps have serious economic impact on both China and India (26).

Has the war for uranium begun?

In the context of an international market, ten countries in the world possess 90 % of the world's uranium production. Will this production be enough to satisfy the demand of the growing nuclear power sector? The remaining available uranium reserves are becoming scarce, while the demand continues to increase since the Kyoto Protocol and alongside the production of new reactors, notably in China.
Since 1991, and in every year after that, the global demand for uranium has exceeded mining production. The difference between mining production and demand is approximately one-third, which is being offset by what is called 'secondary uranium,' or uranium coming from military stockpiles: for example, uranium recuperated from the dismantlement of nuclear weapons, via the Russo -American programme "Megatons to Megawatts'. However, the sale of uranium coming from dismantled warheads will end by 2013. With or without the conflict linked to the Imouraren site in Niger (conceded to the French energy company Areva), any restrictions on the exploitation of this deposit site could lead to a "uranium shock" similar to the oil shock of the '70s, with consequences that are unpredictable.
In terms of rare earth minerals, indispensable for the production of sophisticated military equipment, there is nothing to keep powers such as China, which now holds a near monopoly (97 %) over the extraction of these materials, from being tempted to use this powerful position to pressure or even strangle certain partners.

The debate over carrying capacity

Carrying capacity, a proposition that comes close to the neo-Malthusian theories espoused by Gaston Bouthoul one of the French fathers (with Louise Weiss) of War Studies or 'polemology' and a pioneer in his time, has associated tensions and violence with the scarcity of food resources. Carrying capacity is defined here as the capability of a given natural environment to sustain a given population. It follows then that, once the carrying capacity of a given environment is exceeded, there will be a growing imbalance between population growth and dwindling resources, which almost automatically will lead to conflict. This interpretation, originating from an ecological theory, is questionable. Hence the reservations or criticisms of the determinist and negative aspect of this line of thinking that could be called 'cultural ecology'(27).
When examining cases such as the conflicts of the last few years in Chiapas, Mexico, for example, or in Rwanda, this theory espoused by Steve Leblanc has been described as too 'ecological.' "We, anthropologists," declares Ferguson, "discover that if a population suffers from a lack of basic resources, the principle cause of this shortage is an inequitable distribution of resources within the society, a political question, and an economic question, rather than the combination of a too large population and a lack of resources. Among the peoples of the Northwest Pacific Coast, before the depopulation of the 19th century, groups competed for access to basic resources, such as salmon-sheltering estuaries. But the singularity of the situations does not allow them to be transposed. Thus, in numerous places across the globe, as in the case of the Yanomami people war is not linked to a battle for food. Studies of modern conflicts show that very diverse factors can interact, including the need for food, local ecological relations, as well as struggles for power within governments, and cultural characteristics like beliefs and symbols"(28).
While one might tend to emphasize the inevitability of clashes which 'naturally' will hit or are hitting failed States, states being considered as "unsafe, in the process of failing or having already failed"(29) - it appears that the capacity of these states to manage or adapt to conflicts is not uniform( 30) As argued by Oli Brown of the International Institute of Sustainable Development (IISD): "We have seen, across regions and the world, that conditions of stress have provoked conflicts in certain regions but not in others"(31).

The unknowns linked to climate

We can find solid historic links between civil war and temperature in Africa, with warm years resulting in the significant increase of the probability of war, or so it is claimed in the study entitled "Warming Increases the Risk of Civil War in Africa"(32). Based on computer modeling, this study, undertaken by a team of scientists from Stanford University, the University of California-Berkeley, New York University and Harvard University has already calculated the prospective number of victims in 2030: 393,000 additional war victims if the future conflicts are as deadly as recent conflicts (sic); according to the projections, we should expect an increase of approximately 54 % in the incidence of armed conflict by 2030.
Is the collected data - based on events occurring in Africa between 1981 and 2002 - a good indicator? According to the Norwegian political scientist Halvard Buhaug of the Peace Research Institute in Oslo (PRIO), it is fallacious to establish overly simplistic and mechanical links between climate and civil war(s). Buhaug does not deny the reality of global warming: he admits that the African continent, over the last 50 years, has become hotter and dryer (see above). But there is no tangible correlation between the frequency of civil wars in Sub -Saharan Africa over this period and temperature and rainfall trends. Especially since, although the temperature continued to rise over the last ten years, conflicts on the other hand actually declined. Seen from another perspective, the panorama of 73 conflicts listed between 1980 and 2005, and considered as environmental, shows that they were limited to a certain space and did not in fact present any real 'threat to international security'.
The science of climate change is quite complex. According to the report of Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall (2003-2004), commissioned by Andrew Marshall, strategic adviser to the Pentagon, "We must prepare ourselves for the inevitable effects of abrupt climate change, which will likely occur regardless of human activity" (33). Moreover, the scenario of the authors is modeled on a climatic event, which occurred suddenly, according to ice-core samples from glaciers in Greenland, took place 8,200 years ago, and lasted a century.
The debate remains open. Though, not between supporters and adversaries of global warming, or between climate-skeptics and the others, but rather between the interpretations of global warming: controllable or not, progressive or/and discontinuous? For the geo-political analyst, what consequences will follow an inevitable yet unpredictable process? These unknowns are to be taken into account if one should consider their repercussions on societies endowed with vastly different resources and capabilities of adapting to an array of diverse exterior shocks. One can say that the projected repercussions of climate change on societies are manifestly even more uncertain than anticipated climatic changes since they are essentially a projection based on another projection.

Geopolitical perspectives

Resource scarcity could dictate the terms of international relations in the years to come. This is the line of thinking in the report "The Age of Consequences" produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in the United States (34).
Could the countries considered as rich, over the next thirty years, focus on their own survival while neglecting and maintaining a distance from poor countries? Leon Fuerth, one of the authors of the CSIS report and former National Security Advisor to former Vice-President Al Gore, believes that climate change and its spill-over effects, including causing wars, could lead to the end of the globalization process as we know it today; different regions of the world would withdraw in on themselves to conserve what they "need" for their own survival, or to avoid sharing resources or having to redistribute resources which can be perceived as global public goods.
This trend is already perceptible in the lack of financial support that the West is willing to offer in the framework of official public development assistance, and in the difficulties faced by partners to find innovative financing in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. In any case, a reconfiguring of nation-state power structures cannot be excluded; this could involve exclusive economic zones which recently arose out of the Law of the Sea treaty, with the prospect for navigation and exploitation of the Poles. In the scenario concocted for the benefit of the Pentagon,35 we can look forward to seeing new alliances and alliances of circumstance. The US and Canada could unite and become one country. The two Koreas could re-unite to create an entity with technological know-how and nuclear weapons. The reconfiguring includes a new international sharing of the threat of nuclear death. Amongst the countries who would develop their enrichment and processing capacities (of nuclear materials) to guarantee their national security, the report lists not only countries that already possess nuclear weapons but also Japan, South Korea, Germany, and Egypt. The subtitle of the 2003 report is "Imagining the Unthinkable." It sounds like an echo of the slogan of Herman Kahn's "Think the Unthinkable" voiced during the darkest hours of the Cold War during which the super-powers relied on MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction)(36). 
Even if the West were somehow compelled to 'toe the line' after its long period (five centuries) of domination,37 Europe could act or react as a unified, fortified, and bunkered block to limit the problems associated with immigration and organize its protection against "aggressors." Unless Russia, with its abundant mineral resources, oil, and natural gas, seeks a rapprochement with Europe, a Europe cut loose from the other side of the Atlantic. As a result of these readjustments which also concern the emerging powers, the lines of demarcation between the North and the South, between rich countries and the South, will change.
Unabated climate change could thus plunge the 'industrialized countries' in particular into crises of legitimacy and limit their international scope for action. The worst affected countries are likely to invoke the "polluter pays" principle, so international controversy over a global compensation regime for climate change will probably intensify.
Faced with this complicated future, the thesis developed by Roy Woodbridge in his book 'The Next World War' is appealing; it proposes that the international community should literally go to war, in a unified and coordinated manner, against environmental degradation (38).
This proposal comes close to somewhat Utopian ideas of a reconciled humanity facing a common exterior enemy (the arrival of Martians), and the views of those in the pacifist movement, including Sara Parkin, former director of Forum for the Future, who insists with a dash of wishful thinking that the military are incapable of sewing up the holes in the ozone layer and are powerless against tidal waves and tsunamis (39).

Climate as a tool of strategic influence

For the United States, the climate question is a means of establishing their leadership and perpetuating their strategy of pre -eminence over other countries, with Europe and the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) in the front row (40).
While the CIA opened (in September of 2009) a centre on climate change and national security, the United States had begun to develop a programme to investigate climate as a security risk factor since 1979. With the arrival of President Bill Clinton in the White House, and under Vice-President Al Gore, the intelligence community saw itself assigned an environmental mandate. Since 1994, NATO has launched a series of conferences on the theme of "environment and defence" and has evoked at times the concept of "environmental security'. " Studies of the impact on national security of phenomena such as desertification, rising sea levels, population movements, and the rising competition for natural resources are not, moreover, preoccupations that are exclusive to the Pentagon. But the consequences can affect military installations, such as Diego Garcia for example, endangered by rising sea levels. Furthermore, the consequences of climate change could impose "an additional burden on military forces in the world", as noted in the Quadrennial Defense Review published by the American Army (41).
Certain rival powers could be tempted to appropriate the Arctic region at the risk of leading the world into "another Cold War," in the words of Frank -Walter Steinmeier, the German Minister for Foreign Affairs. Thus, "Additionally, an Arctic with less sea ice could bring more competition for resources, as well as more commercial and military activity, that could further threaten an already fragile ecosystem," as stated in the April 2007, CNA report, entitled 'National Security and the Threat of Climate Change' that articulates the concept of climate change acting as a "threat multiplier" for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world (42). For the Russians, its new Antarctic strategy has been framed around the preservation of "Russian national interests." The need to develop geophysical knowledge about the Antarctic geological make-up is linked to the presence of ore deposits found on the continent and its continental shelf, and also to the potential presence of hydrocarbons. Although the Antarctica Treaty prohibits any mining activity in the region, States with interests there must prepare themselves to assert their "geopolitical claims."

By way of a conclusion

In spite of the controversy about the graphs and data furnished by climatologists, a majority have drawn the conclusion that the potential consequences of climate change on the availability of water, food security, the prevalence of disease, coastal boundaries, and population distributions could aggravate already existing tensions and generate new conflicts. It is at the same time difficult and risky to establish relationships of cause and effect, especially since the current period has been characterized by a decrease in conflicts in comparison to the Cold War period. Can we therefore venture to establish a link between natural disasters and conflicts?
The data collected by the Research Centre on the Epidemiology of Disaster (2006) seems to disavow this conclusion, stating that "of the 171 disasters caused by storms and flooding since 1950 - each having at least 1,000 victims - a clear link has been established in 12 cases - between natural disasters and the intensification of a conflict or a political crisis" (43). Only 12 cases.
If no one is capable of determining the type of conflicts and their degrees of intensity, then there is no reason to believe that they will be confined to a given area. In a world that is more and more interdependent, the rise in the number of armed conflicts in Africa will have repercussions that go beyond the boundaries of that continent.
From a retrospective analysis of inter-state conflicts over the last sixty years, it is possible to conclude that conflicts associated with natural resources are twice as likely to flare up again within five years; which could be termed a "boomerang" effect. And yet, less than a quarter of the peace negotiations aimed at resolving conflicts over resources have seriously sought to address the mechanisms of resource management.
There are other factors than those linked to climate - poverty, governance, conflict management, regional diplomacy, and others - which will determine, in large part, if the status of climate change will evolve from being a challenge to sustainable development for the most vulnerable to being a global security threat.
The Brundtland Report already stated more than twenty years ago that "In recent years, international relations have been characterized by a marked tendency to resort to the threat or use of military force in response to security threats of a non military character" (44). It's a safe bet that this prognosis is even more valid today.

BC, Chapter 22

The Ashgate Research Companion to War
Origins and Prevention (Ashgate, 2012)
Edited by Hall Gardner and Oleg Kobtzeff



1. Fabrice Renaud, Institute for the Environment and Human Security, United Nations University
2. The United Nations Group of Governmental Experts on the Relationship between Disarmament and Development (1978-1981), chaired by Ms. Inga Thorsson (Sweden); U.N. General Assembly document A/36/536, reproduced by the Centre for Disarmament Affairs in 1982 as Disarmament Study n° 5
3. Brundtland Commission "Our Common Future
4. Ibid See Chapters 4 and 7.
5. Appendix of UN resolution A/63/L.8/rev.1
6. WBGU Report 2007 "World in Transition: Climate Change as a Security Risk" German Federal Government's Advisory Council on Global Environmental Change (WBGU - Wissenschaftlicher Beirat der Bundesregierung Globale Umweltveränderungen) December 2007 -
8. Ehrlich 1969, Ehrlich and Ehrlich, 1990; Homer-Dixon 1999.
9. Proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences 10.1073/pnas.1005739107 (2010).
10. Bohle, H.G., Downing, T. E. et M.H. Watts. "Climate Change and Social Vulnerability: Toward a Sociology and Geography of Food Insecurity," in Global Environmental Change, vol. 4, no 1, 1994, p. 37-48; Döös, B.R. "Environmental Degradation, Global Food Production, and Risk for Large-scale Migrations," in Ambio, vol. 23, no 2, 1994, p. 124-130; Molvaer, R. "Environmentally Induced Conflicts? A Discussion Based on Studies from the Horn of Africa," In Bulletin of Peace Proposals, vol. 22, no 2, 1991, p. 175-188
11. Collier, P. and Hoeffler, A. "Greed and grievance in civil war." Oxford Economic Papers, vol. 56, no 4, 2004. 563–595. European Commission
12. Hendrix, C.S. et S.M. Glaser. Trends and triggers: Climate, climate change and civil conflict in SubSaharan Africa , in Political Geography, vol. 26, 2007, p. 695-715
13. Ibid.
14. Garcia, D. The climate security divide: Bridging human and national security in Africa, The African Security Review, vol. 17, no 3, Institute for Security Studies, 2008, p. 2-17
15. WBGU Report 2007 "World in Transition: Climate Change as a Security Risk" German Federal Government's Advisory Council on Global Environmental Change (WBGU - Wissenschaftlicher Beirat der Bundesregierung Globale Umweltveränderungen) December 2007 - 
16. McGregor, J. "Climate Change and Involuntary Migration: Implications for Food Security," In Food Policy, vol. 19, no 2, 1994, p. 120-132
17. Lavieille Jean-Marc, Michel Prieur, Jean-Pierre Marguénaud, Gérard Monédiaire, Julien Betaille, Bernard Drobenko, Jean-Jacques Gouguet, Séverine Nadaud and Damien Roets, "Projet de Convention relative au statut international des déplacés environnementaux," Revue européenne de droit de l'environnement, n° 4/2008, p.381
18. G. F. Dumont, Les Territoires face au vieillissement en France et en Europe (Paris, Ellipses, 2006)
19. Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall, An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security (October 2003). 
20. Klare Michael, Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet : The New Geopolitics of Energy (Henry Holt & Company, 2008)
21. Monbiot George, Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning (London, Allen Lane/Penguin, 2006)
22. Andrew SIMMS, Policy Director at the New Economics Foundation, Africa - Up in Smoke (New Economics Foundation, London, 2005) 
23. Dixon, R, Smith, J, Guill, S (2003). 'Life on the edge: vulnerability and adaptation of African ecosystems to global climate change'. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, 8(2):93–113 cited in Nyong, A. (2005), 'Impacts of climate change in the tropics: the African experience', keynote presentation at 'Avoiding dangerous climate change: a scientific symposium on stabilization of greenhouse gases, Met Office, Exeter, United Kingdom, February 2005.
24. Campbell, K.M, J. Gullledge, J.R. Mcneill, J. Podesta, P. Ogden, L. Fuerth, R.J. Woosley, A.T.J. Lennon, J. Smith, R. Weitz et D. Miz. The Age of Consequences: The Foreign Policy and national Security Implications of Global Climate Change, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) et Center for a New American Security (CNAS), 2007
25. Wolf, Aaron. T., Annika Kramer, Alexander Carius and Georffrey Dabelko. "Water can be a pathway to peace not war: Global Security brief #5," In State of the World 2005, Worldwatch Institute, Washington, 2005.
26. US Joint Forces Command, Joint Operating Environment (2010) See
27. Obi, C. Globalised Images of Environmental Security in Africa , Review of African Political Economy, vol. 27, no 83, 2000, p. 47-62
28. Ferguson R.B. et N. Whitehead (dir.), War in the Tribal Zone: Expanding States and Indigenous Warfare, School of American Research Press, 2000. (Interview with Brian Ferguson in 'La Recherche').
29. Welzer Harald, Les guerres du climat, Pourquoi on tue au XXIème siècle, Gallimard, collection NRF essais, 2009
30. Batterbury, S.P.J & A.Warren (eds.). 2001. "The African Sahel 25 years after the Great Drought". Global Environmental Change. 11 (1): 1-96. (8 papers).
31. Oli Brown of the International Institute of Sustainable Development (IISD)
32. Marshall B. Burke, Edward Miguel, Shanker Satyanath, John A. Dykema and David B. Lobell, Warming Increases the Risk of Civil War in Africa". (ref: Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, vol 106, n° 49, pp. 20670-20674 (October 2009) Source:
33. Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall, An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security, October 2003
34. Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) The Age of Consequences November 2007
35. Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall, An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security
36. Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall, An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security October 2003.
37. Kempf Hervé, La crise écologique : une question de justice, revue de Défense Nationale, Paris, février 2010
38. Roy Woodbridge, The Next World War: Tribes, Cities, Nations, and Ecological Decline (Toronto : University of Toronto Press, 2004).
39. Sara Parkin, "As shooting the ozone layer or bombing empty water aquifers is not an option" cf.Environmental Security: Issues and Agenda for an Incoming Government., published in the RUSI Journal, June 1997, pp. 24-28
40. Lalanne Romain 'Quand la sécurité devient vert'e, revue Défense Nationale, Février 2010-11-13
42. CNA Report, National Security and the Threat of Climate Change (April 2007) , p. 21
43. Centre For the Research on Epidemiology Disasters, Annual Disaster Statistical Review 2006 "The death of a large number of people following the hurricane Katrina, the heat wave of the summer of 2003 in Europe, and the Indonesian tsunami of December 2004 have sadly demonstrated that, in the case of natural disasters, countries and communities, even the most developed ones, are badly prepared to protect and help their citizen, the vulnerable ones in particular, i.e. poor, isolated, sick, handicapped people who lived in inappropriate lodging conditions. Such disasters are never totally 'natural.' In fact, many experts consider that so -called 'natural' disasters are largely due to human negligence or to inappropriate land use. When causes and consequences of disasters are considered, it is crucial to address the notion of individual and social vulnerability of a person as much as human adaptation to stress."
44. Brundtland Commission, " Our Common Future "