Climate Change Stresses Threaten Brazil’s Water Security, Say Military Experts

8 Dec 2020 by Staff - Water Diplomat

Brazil is not adequately prepared for the impacts of climate change-related stressors on its security, economy, natural resource base, and critical national infrastructure, says a new report by the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS). Its hydro-electricity plants and military facilities are found to be especially ill prepared.

The report, ‘Climate and Security in Brazil’, urges Brazilian leaders to make climate change and counter-deforestation a “security priority” and to “climate-proof” the nation’s security. The IMCCS is a group of senior military leaders, security experts, and security institutions from 38 countries, which examines security risks of a changing climate.

Launching the report, Sherri Goodman, IMCCS secretary general and senior strategist at the Centre for Climate and Security, warned that climate change is an existential risk to all societies and a matter of human and national security.

“Protracted droughts that severely affect agrarian states and megacities alike, may become a new normal as non-traditional rain patterns disrupt water and hydro-electricity supplies,” Goodman said.

The group analysed the potentially catastrophic security consequences of resurgent and record-setting illegal deforestation, and associated carbon emissions. They also forecasted the likely impacts of climate change trends, such as sea level rises and rain variability, on Brazil’s national security.

Brazil’s water and energy sectors are already being impacted, says the report. Although Brazil’s energy mix is weighted to “green energy” (over 70 Percent), experts warn that the nation’s dependence on river flows and reservoirs for hydro-electricity production “may become its Achilles’ heel should the processes that drive these systems become disrupted by non-traditional rain patterns driven by climate change”.

If hydro-electricity plants – the country’s major source of energy – significantly underperform while demand for electricity grows, significant multi-sectoral disruptions could occur, undermining human security and law and order.

“Protecting the Amazon forest is protecting Brazil’s national security,” Shiloh Fetzek, senior fellow for international affairs at the Centre for Climate and Security, said. “The forest drives water cycles that power Brazil’s electricity and water supplies, and the country’s economy, human security and national security depend on stopping deforestation from reaching a tipping point that permanently destroys the Amazon – and the global climate system.

“Enforcing the rule of law across the country, including through strong counter-deforestation measures, will also push back against the serious organised crime networks that pose the most immediate threat to Brazil’s national security,” added Fetzek.

The report says that Brazilian security institutions have a responsibility to prepare for, and prevent, these foreseeable security challenges. “This includes supporting climate resilience by not only better preparing military infrastructure to withstand trends such as sea level rise, but also strengthening military capacities for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations,” the report states.

Deforestation and forest fire rates in some regions this year were record setting, raising concerns that the Amazon might soon reach a tipping point. Research by WWF has found an increase of 220 Percent in the number of fires this year in Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands, with 58.5 Percent taking place in August.