DATE: February 19, 2019
SNIP: Climate change threats – from worsening water shortages in Iraq and Pakistan to harsher hurricanes in the Caribbean – are a growing security risk and require concerted action to ensure they don’t spark new violence, security experts warned Tuesday.
“Climate change is not about something in the far and distant future. We are discussing imminent threats to national security,” said Monika Sie Dhian Ho, general director of the Clingendael Institute, a Dutch think tank.
The drying of Africa’s Lake Chad basin, for instance, has helped drive recruitment for Islamist militant group Boko Haram among young people unable to farm or find other work, said Haruna Kuje Ayuba of Nigeria’s Nasarawa State University.
“People are already deprived of a basic livelihood,” the geography professor said at a conference on climate and security at The Hague. “If you give them a little money and tell them to destroy this or kill that, they are ready to do it.”
The threat of worsening violence related to climate change also extends to countries and regions not currently thought of as insecurity hot spots, climate and security analysts at the conference warned.
The Caribbean, for instance, faces more destructive hurricanes, coral bleaching, sea-level rise and looming water shortages that threaten its main economic pillars, particularly tourism.
“We’re facing an existential crisis in the Caribbean,” said Selwin Hart, the Barbados-born executive director of the Inter-American Development Bank.
Ninety percent of the region’s economic activity – particularly tourism, fishing and port operations – takes place on the threatened coastline, he said.
Hurricanes, in recent years, have flattened the economies of some Caribbean nations, with Hurricane Maria in 2017 costing Dominica about 225 percent of its GDP, according to World Bank estimates.
The failure to cut emissions means the Caribbean, while doing what it can to become more resilient to the growing risks, also needs “to plan for the worst-case scenario”, Hart said.
“Climate change fuels the roots of conflict around the globe and poses a direct threat to populations and installations in coastal areas and small islands,” said General Tom Middendorp, a former Dutch defense chief.
“It should therefore be taken very seriously as a major security issue that needs to be addressed. The military can and should be part of the solution,” he said.