Water Insecurity As A Driver Of Global Instability

19 Feb 2020 by Staff - Water Diplomat
MUNICH, Germany

A new report, compiled and written by international military and security experts, provides a global overview of security risks specifically as they relate to changing climate. It recommends “climate-proofing” international security (including infrastructure, institutions and policies) as well as significant reduction in emissions in order to contain, if not avert, significant-to-catastrophic security threats. Climate change-exacerbated water insecurity is already a significant driver of instability according to the report, with 93 percent of climate security and military experts surveyed agreeing that it will pose a significant or higher risk to global security by 2030.

The Expert Group of the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS) released its inaugural “World Climate and Security Report 2020” at the Munich Security Conference (MSC) 13 February. The report acknowledges that security institutions are increasingly analysing and incorporating climate change risks into their assessments, plans and policies but the “World Climate and Security Report 2020” shows that the risks are increasingly urgent, and more must be done.

The report is a global and regional risk overview that is based on the most current information on the intersection of climate change and security at the regional and international level. The findings include a Climate Security Risk Perception Survey that assesses perceptions of risk among military and security professionals who are concerned about climate change.

Based on current circumstances the report assesses the following risks as being significant to global security:

  • Water insecurity: Climate change-exacerbated water insecurity is already a significant driver of instability. Ninety-three percent of climate security and military experts surveyed agree that it will pose a significant or higher risk to global security by 2030.
  • All climate risk is global (not just fragile/poor regions): Although fragile regions face the most severe and catastrophic security consequences of climate change, all regions of the world are exposed to significant security risk due to the global nature of the risks. This is exemplified in that 86 percent of climate security and military experts surveyed perceive that climate change effects on conflict within nations present a significant or higher risk to global security in the next two decades.
  • Military institutions are increasingly concerned about climate risks: As reinforced by the 31 nations represented in the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS), an increasing number of national, regional and international security and military institutions are concerned about, and planning for, climate change risks to military infrastructure, force readiness, military operations, and the broader security environment.
  • Climate mitigation, adaptation and resilience efforts are increasingly urgent to avert the significant security consequences of climate change. However, if not implemented correctly, some proposed solutions could present negative effects to global security.
  • Rising authoritarianism, sharpened global competition and national agendas are hampering the needed cooperation among nations to address the security risks of climate change.

In effect, while climate change was not necessarily a direct cause of conflict, the Experts maintain that it is a multiplier of risks and threats presented by persistent issues such as poverty, rapid population growth, generally weak governance, increased competition and access to natural resources, including water and arable land.

The Expert Group put forth some “opportunities”, many of which appear to depend on international cooperation in designing solutions and taking actions to implement them.

  • National, regional, and international security institutions and militaries around the world should advance robust climate resilience strategies, plans and investments, especially regarding climate implications for water and food security
  • Security and military institutions should demonstrate leadership on climate security risks and resilience and encourage governments to advance comprehensive emissions reductions and adaptation investments to avoid those security disruptions.
  • Climate-proofing development assistance for vulnerable nations that are likely hotspots of instability and conflict, as well as climate-proofing other policies affecting those regions, should be a priority for conflict prevention. Assistance should be aimed at climate resilience challenges such as water security, food security, and disaster preparedness.
  • The international community should embrace a Responsibility to Prepare and Prevent framework, given unprecedented foresight capabilities regarding the unprecedented risks of climate change.
  • Security institutions around the globe should integrate climate knowledge and training into institutional frameworks to ensure that knowledge and understanding of climate change threats permeates the organizational culture.

The International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS) is a group of senior military leaders, security experts, and security institutions across the globe, currently from 32 countries, dedicated to anticipating, analyzing, and addressing the security risks of a changing climate. The group was founded and is administered by the Center for Climate and Security (CCS), an institute of the Council on Strategic Risks (CSR), in partnership with the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs (IRIS), the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS) and the Planetary Security Initiative of the Netherlands Institute of International Relations (Clingendael). These organizations form the Expert Group of the IMCCS.