Maria Banda: The Climate Change-Security Nexus, Oct. 27 2016

Synopsis by Lucas Garzon

Mounting evidence suggests that despite climate change being dominantly framed as an environmental problem, its impact is not limited to any single policy area. Experts such as Maria Banda [insert title/role] argue that peace and security–especially that of fragile and failing states–is being directly threatened by climate change.

Poor and fragile regions are at greatest risk of succumbing to such a threat primarily because they do not have the resiliency that most developed states have when facing climate-induced shocks like drought. This is compounded by the fact that these regions are already at an elevated risk of conflict due to under-developed/inadequate governmental institutions, law enforcement, and rule of law. These regions often inhabit areas that are projected to experience the most intense and frequent impacts of climate change.

If international attention is not turned towards the climate-security nexus, it has the potential to not only intensify but multiply, worldwide humanitarian crises.

This is already happening in Darfur, where the desert has moved 100 kilometers south and rainfall has decreased by up to 30% in a 40-year span. Since it is a relatively fragile state, comprised of a population that relies heavily on agriculture for its subsistence, the result has been communities increasingly coming into conflict with one another over disappearing water holes and pastures. Here, climate change played a direct role in aggravating ecological stressors which in turn prompted the fragile region to descend into conflict.

Conflicts in fragile/failing states often take the form of rebel or militia forces taking on each other or government forces. During this type of conflict, international laws and norms often flouted, and weapons like landmines are turned against soldiers and civilians alike.

In Syria, government forces, rebels and especially ISIS militants have relied on the use of traditional and improvised landmines – despite their use being banned under the 1999 Ottawa Treaty.

At a time when the international community has made enormous progress against landmine use, manufacture, and contamination, the increasing impacts of climate change threatens to impede further progress.