Over the past five decades, human activity has resulted in the significant release of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s lower atmosphere. The burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and livestock farming has produced enormous levels of greenhouse gases, creating what is known as the ‘Greenhouse Effect.’ Gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous trap heat within the atmosphere, creating a thermal heating effect that gradually increases global temperatures and changes climate patterns. Carbon dioxide emissions increased dramatically during the industrial and post-industrial eras as populations grew to record-breaking numbers, resulting in mass production and consumerism that required high energy production levels and increased environmental exploitation. Throughout the late 20th and early 21st centuries, sea levels have risen, natural disasters have increased in regularity and severity, and global temperatures are steadily increasing. Such events have resulted in mass migrations, resource conflicts, environmental degradation, and infectious disease outbreaks that significantly threaten global security. According to the World Health Organization, climate change is expected to cause 250,000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050 through increased heat exposure, malnutrition, and viral disease.
According to the United Nations, climate change is a ‘threat multiplier’. Climate change-related degradation of natural resources, such as arable land and water supply, acts as significant instigators in violence and has contributed to multiple armed conflicts, both on the international and local levels. In 2007, Darfur was named the world’s first climate change conflict by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon after climate change resulted in devastating droughts and desertification in the African Sahel region. These events initiated comprehensive resource disputes between farmers and pastoralists as arable land and water supply lessened, forcing pastoralists to change traditional migration patterns, which put them in conflict with farmers. Such conflicts eventually culminated in the Darfur genocide, which garnered international attention and offered a glimpse into the violent future climate change could cultivate globally. However, although Darfur was the first internationally recognized climate conflict, it was not the first conflict exacerbated by climate change. According to the UN Interagency Framework Team for Prevention Action’s 2012 Renewable Resources and Conflict report, 40 percent of civil wars from 1952-2012 were associated with natural resources.
Climate change-induced degradation of natural resources provides socio-political stressors that can accelerate and even cause conflict. The reduction of water supply and arable land often results in migration to urban areas and the fluctuation of food prices. Such events can instigate political tension between ethnic groups, political parties, and positively contribute to the rise of armed insurrections. For instance, the loss of natural resources creates opportunities for insurrection groups to expand their spheres of influence by securing remaining resources to withhold from the local population as either incentive for placidity or to force migration from the area. Moreover, the rise of food prices and migration were instigating factors in the 2010 Arab Spring. Before the eruption of protests and violence in December of that year, the region underwent severe droughts related to climate change, which led to mass migrations to urban areas in several Arab countries. In turn, these migrations caused ethnic and political tensions as urban areas diversified and exacerbated already tense socio-political environments. In countries such as Yemen and Syria, violence related to the Arab Spring is ongoing and has cost the lives of millions. The continued deterioration of natural resources in the region has proven to exacerbate these conflicts, with famine officially being declared in Yemen in 2017 and Syria’s refugee crisis continuing to grow at an alarming rate.
Within Latin America, the violation of indigenous peoples’ rights and the killing of environmental activists have significantly increased under the pressures of climate change. According to Amnesty International, Latin America is the deadliest region in the world for environmental activists. Within 2019, 208 activists were killed in targeted executions that aimed to reduce political backlash against environmentally degrading practices such as deforestation and mining. Similarly, in Peru, protesting over the exploration of oil in the indigenous region of Bagua resulted in the death of 32 people in June of 2009 when security forces and protestors violently collided. Environmentally exploitive operations are often performed within indigenous territories such as the Amazon Rainforest, which has experienced widespread deforestation for several decades, both through governmental and illicit entities. The continuation of these practices reduces natural resources vital to indigenous populations’ survival and significantly adds to greenhouse gas emission. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 300 people were killed over land and water resource conflicts in the Amazon from 2009 to 2019, with only 14 of the 300 assassinations resulting in a trial.
According to the United Nations, Small Island Developing States (SIDS), such as the Pacific Islands, are amongst the most climate change vulnerable countries in the world. However, they are also some of the smallest carbon dioxide emission producers globally. Nonetheless, these island nations lack the mitigation and resources of hegemonic states that reduce the severity and recovery periods of climate change-induced natural disasters. Such islands have limited land availability, which is significantly threatened by rising sea levels. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate predicted that climate change would result in some island nations becoming completely “uninhabitable.”
The loss of habitable land and natural resources via global warming has already resulted in international territorial and resource conflicts. States will find it increasingly challenging to respond to public demands for food and water supply as resources deteriorate, which will result in international competition over land and natural resources. Such conflict is already present in Africa and the Arctic. For instance, Ethiopia-Egyptian disputes over access to the diminishing Nile River water supply has resulted in threats of military intervention and political pressure since the 2011 construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam. Moreover, within the Arctic, the eight Arctic countries of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Canada, America, Russia, and Finland have increasingly found themselves in territorial disputes as global warming reduces Arctic ice caps and creates new prosperous opportunities for trade and resource extraction in the region.
Climate change will only prove to continually worsen global stability and security if immediate global mitigation is not implemented. According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (PNAS), the risk of an armed-conflict outbreak is significantly increased by climate-related disasters in ethnically fractionalized countries. In Africa alone, PNAS predicts that armed conflict will increase by 54% by 2030, resulting in the additional deaths of 393,000 on the continent. Furthermore, as natural resource degradation continues, it is expected for international border conflicts between states to increase as they compete over access to water and arable land supplies to meet growing population demands. Such future conflicts will threaten the lives of millions and contain the possibility of a coming global upheaval threatening the current world order.
In 2020, the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) released the Ecological Threat Register (ETR), a report that measures the ecological threats 157 countries are facing currently and in the future. The results of the ETR show that 141 countries are exposed to at least one major ecological threat between 2020 and 2050. The 19 states with the highest ecological threats have a combined population of 2.1 billion people. Among the most threatened states are Afghanistan, which is exposed to 6 ecological threats, and Mozambique and Namibia who are each facing five ecological threats. Furthermore, over one third of countries will experience high or extreme levels of water stress by 2040. The ETR also predicted that 1.2 billion people could be displaced as a result of ecological disasters by 2050.
Resource-related conflicts are on the rise, particularly in Africa, with Ethiopia-Egyptian relations flaring over Nile River access. Currently, The World Resource Institute estimates that the Global South is at increased risk for armed resource-related conflicts. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), 50.8 million people were displaced due to conflict, violence, and natural disasters in 2019.
Moreover, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimated in 2007 that Sub-Saharan African agriculture yields would fall by 50 percent by the end of 2020. If all existing climate change policies are implemented, it is expected for temperatures to increase by 3.2-5.8 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the 21st century. As a result, there are currently calls for stricter climate change mitigation strategies by the scientific community, with over 60 countries having announced climate-neutral policies.
Classification: Environmental crisis
Where: Global, with most conflicts occurring in Africa
Estimated Climate Change Caused Deaths: 150,000 deaths annually
Estimated Displacements Climate Change will cause: 143 million in Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and South Asia by 2050
Estimated Number of People Climate Change will Impoverish: 100 million by 2030
2019 Disaster Caused Internal Displacements: 24.9 million people were internally displaced across 140 countries and territories due to an estimated 2,000 natural disasters
Global Carbon Emissions in 2019: 33 Gigatons (Gt)
Global Temperature Increase: 2.0 degrees Fahrenheit increase since 1884
Current Carbon Dioxide Levels: 414 parts per million (ppm)
Annual Rate of Sea Level Rise: 3.3 millimeters per year
Highest Temperature Recorded: 54.4 degrees Celsius (130 degrees Fahrenheit) in August 2020. Rising temperatures have caused wildfires globally and have increased the occurrence of droughts, risking millions of lives
Percent of Countries That Could Face Catastrophic Water Stress by 2050: 34%
Percent of Countries That Could Face Catastrophic Food Insecurity by 2050: 22%
Carbon dioxide (C02) makes up the majority of Greenhouse gas emissions, with the EPA reporting in 2018 that C02 emissions accounted for 81% of Greenhouse gases. Like other Greenhouse gases, C02 traps heat in the atmosphere and, in large amounts, can result in global warming. Causes of C02 emissions include respiration, volcano eruptions, deforestation, the burning of fossil fuels, solid waste, and specific chemical reactions. Global warming caused by Greenhouse gas emission has resulted in land and natural resource degradation that has threatened millions of lives and forced mass migrations globally. The loss of arable land and water resources and rising political tensions related to mass migrations are all conflict threat multipliers. However, many countries continue to emit enormous amounts of C02. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), the highest emitters per capita of C02 in 2020 are China, the United States, India, the Russian Federation, Japan, Germany, South Korea, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Canada, and Saudi Arabia.
The Climate Risk Index (CRI), created by Germanwatch, analyzes how extreme weather events impact countries and indicates national levels of vulnerability to future events. The 15th edition of the CRI was released in 2020 and warns that “signs of escalating climate change can no longer be ignored – on any continent or in any region.” The 2020 CRI also notes that the poorest countries are often the hardest hit by climate change due to being “particularly vulnerable to the damaging effects of a hazard,” and lower national coping capacities. According to the Climate Risk Index, the countries most vulnerable to climate change are Japan, the Philippines, Germany, Madagascar, India, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Rwanda, Canada, and Fiji.
The United Nations (UN) has been an active leader in environmental protection and international environmental politics since the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment in 1972. The UN created the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1989 to provide a scientific view on climate change and its future socioeconomic effects. The IPCC releases assessment reports on the role of human activity in climate change that has been instrumental in climate change research and awareness. Legal instruments related to climate change and environmental protection within the UN include the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol, and the Paris Climate Agreement. Additionally, the UN has been instrumental in climate change conflict prevention. As early as 2007, the UN Security Council (UNSC) began discussing the impact climate change could have on global security. Since then, the UN has partnered with the EU on the EU-UN Partnership on Land, Natural Resources, and Conflict Prevention and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres identified climate change as a central part of the UN’s prevention agenda. In 2018, the UN established the Climate Security Mechanism (CSM) to provide assessments on climate-related security threats and mitigation strategies.
Africa is the second-largest and second-most-populous continent. Africa contains the five most impoverished countries in the world and has suffered from environmental exploitation for centuries that make it highly vulnerable to climate change. The report released by the Institute for Economics and Peace called the Ecological Threat Register says that 33 out of the 43 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are exposed to medium to high level ecological threats.
Temperature increases in sub-Saharan Africa are projected to be higher than the global mean, and West Africa’s food security has been identified as highly vulnerable to climate change. Additionally, the African continent experiences high levels of state conflict, with 21 state-based conflicts reported in 2016, an all-time high for the continent. In 2009, a study by the Proceeding of the National Academy of Science of the United States (PNAS) found historical linkages between temperature and levels of armed conflict in Africa, with their data suggesting that continental conflict could rise by 54% by the year 2030 due to rising global temperatures. The threats climate change poses on security are already present in Africa. Terrorist groups have capitalized on depleting natural resources to increase their spheres of influence, and mass migrations have caused political tension and conflict in the African Sahel. Additionally, conflicts between pastoralists and farmers are on the rise as they compete over diminishing land and water resources.
The African Union (AU) was founded in 2002 and consists of 55 member states representing the African continent. Notably, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights was the first regional human rights doctrine to provide environmental rights under Articles 21 and 24 of its charter. The AU identified climate change as a threat to security and peace in its 2016 African Peace and Security Architecture Roadmap and drafted a Climate Security Strategy in 2014. Additionally, the African Union established its 2063 Agenda, which aims to have the continent environmentally sustainable and economies and communities climate resilient by 2063.
The Arctic Circle consists of the Earth’s Northern Pole and its relative area. Climate change is particularly harmful to the Arctic’s environment due to rising global temperatures resulting in the melting of Arctic ice caps. The melting of ice caps causes rising sea levels, affects global climate patterns, causes severe weather events, and threatens the Arctic’s ecology. NASA has reported that Arctic sea ice is declining at a rate of 12.85 percent per decade. The melting of the ice caps has also led to increased exploitation of the region through trade and resource extraction. As a result, there have been multiple territorial disputes and increased military presence in the area among the eight Arctic countries. These same countries make up the Arctic Council, which was formed in 1996 to address issues facing the Arctic and increase cooperation, coordination, and interaction among the Arctic states. The council includes Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States
The European Union (EU) has been an active leader in international environmental politics and climate change reform since the creation of the EU Environmental Policy in 1972. The EU is a signatory on both the Paris Climate Agreement and Kyoto Protocol and, in 2019, released the European Green Deal, which aims to make the EU reach net-zero Greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050. Additionally, the EU was one of the first organizations to recognize climate change as a threat multiplier and has been instrumental in the advocacy of climate change conflict prevention. In 2008, the EU partnered with the United Nations for the EU-UN Partnership on Land, Natural Resources and Conflict Prevention. The partnership aimed to develop and implement strategies to increase states’ capacities to prevent natural resource and land-related conflicts. At the 2013 EU Defence Summit, the EU mandated the European Action Service (EEAS) to construct a new security strategy that would include climate change-related security threats. In 2018, the EU held the high-level event Climate, Peace and Security: The Time for Action, which brought together leading international figures, members of civil society, and think tanks to discuss the threats climate change presents to security.
Latin America comprises 20 countries in the Western Hemisphere where climate change is already highly visible. Within Latin America, precipitation patterns have shifted, the Andean glaciers are melting, temperatures are rising, severe weather events are increasing, and the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans are warming and rising in acidity. According to the IPCC, 613 Hydro-meteorological events occurred in Latin America from 2000-2013. Such events resulted in land and natural resource degradation that led to civilian emigration from Central America. Mass migration is an agitating factor in conflict causation as it puts pressure on national resources that can result in political tension. Additionally, climate change is a significant threat to indigenous populations within Latin America that cannot respond to increasing deforestation and natural resource deterioration. Environmental activists within Latin America have faced tremendous persecution and have become the target of assassinations. According to Global Witness, 572 environmental activists were killed in Latin America between 2010-2015, and the region has been labeled the most dangerous in the world for environmental defenders.
The Asian Megadeltas refer to the Asian coast where many large river-deltas are present. The Deltas include The Huanghe (Yellow), Changjian (Yangtze), Ganges-Brahmaputra, Zhujiang (Pearl), Song Hong (Red), Mekong, Chao Phraya, Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy), and Indus among others. The Asian Megadeltas are highly vulnerable to climate change caused events such as storms, floods, droughts, and rising sea-levels. The area has a population of over 325 million and is among the most densely populated and rapidly urbanizing regions of the world. A 2004 Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research (APN) report called for urgent vulnerability assessment along the coasts to achieve sustainable development to protect against future geo-hazards.
The Pacific Islands make up a multitude of island nations in the Pacific Ocean, with the three main ethno-groups: Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. Pacific Island countries have already experienced severe weather events related to climate change, such as rising sea-levels, extreme weather events such as cyclones and droughts, loss of marine life and coral systems, and agricultural degradation. Although these countries are among the lowest Greenhouse gas emitters globally, they are some of the most vulnerable and adversely affected countries in terms of climate change.
Climate change has positively affected insurrection groups in the Middle East and Africa. The loss of local natural resources can heavily impoverish communities and aid in the recruitment of jihadist groups. In the 2014 ISIS invasion of Iraq, national droughts resulted in increased poverty levels, creating communities highly vulnerable to jihadist recruitment. Higher recruitment levels aided in the eventual 2014 invasion by gathering domestic intelligence and participating in violence. However, increased jihadist recruitment in countries is only a fraction of the problem for many regions. The loss of natural resources creates opportunities for insurrection groups to expand their spheres of influence by securing remaining resources to withhold from the local population as either incentive for placidity or to force migration from the area. Nigeria and the associated Lake Chad region have been subject to water and land resource attacks by Boko Haram for several years. Such conflicts risk the lives of the 30 million people in the area that rely on the lake for daily water supply and have significantly increased Boko Haram’s sphere of influence in the region as well as instigate violence between local communities over access to the lake.
Conflicts Related to Climate Change
In 2014, a year before the civil war erupted in Yemen, the World Bank reported that Yemen’s water resources were decreasing at a rate of six meters annually in the countryside of Amran, Dhamar, Sadah, Sanaam, and Taiz. Additionally, global warming resulted in an increased spread of Malaria and Cholera. The scarcity of water and outbreaks of disease aggravated an already tense socio-political environment and accelerated the outbreak of war in March of 2015.
For more information on this conflict, click this link to be directed to our Yemen Civil War page.
Darfur was labelled as the first climate change conflict by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2007. Darfur is located in the Sudan, which is a part of the Sahel region of Africa. During the 1970-1980s the Sahel underwent extreme desertification and droughts caused by low-rainfall levels as a result of global warming. Violence erupted during the droughts as farmers and pastoralists competed for dwindling natural resources and by 2003 culminated into what is now known as the Darfur conflict.
The Sahel region of Africa is comprised of the countries Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Sudan, Senegal, Nigeria, Chad, Mauritania, and Eritrea. The area underwent severe droughts, low rainfall levels, and desertification in the 1970-1980s due to climate change. As a result, the Sahel has seen decades of violence, with the Darfur Conflict and the South Sudan Civil War (see link) arising in the region. The former was labelled the first climate change conflict by UN Secretary-General Ki-moon in 2007. In the latter case, although the South Sudan Civil War officially ended in 2020, climate change threatens to continue the conflict in resource depleted regions and exacerbate the national famine.
The melting of the Arctic ice caps via global warming has invited new opportunities for resource extraction and trade in the Arctic region. Such opportunities have led to multiple territorial disputes between the eight Arctic countries of America, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Denmark, Iceland, and Canada. As territorial disputes increased, so did military presence in the region, with many considering the Arctic as the new Cold War.
Lake Chad is a large endorheic lake in Africa surrounded by the countries of Chad, Cameroon (see link), Niger, and Nigeria. The lake acts as a water resource for an estimated 30 million people and has undergone severe shrinking due to global warming. The loss of the lake’s water capacity has led to outbreaks in violence over control of the lake between natives and armed groups as well as conflict between cattle herders and farmers as they compete for greener lands.
Before the outbreak of civil war in Libya, the region underwent severe droughts due to low-rainfall levels induced by global warming. The droughts resulted in the loss of vital water resources and arable land that increased urban migration and socio-political tensions. The introduction of the Arab Spring in 2010, coupled with the adverse effects of climate change, culminated in the outbreak of civil war in 2014.
For more information on this conflict, click this link to be directed to our Libya Civil War page.
According to Dartmouth researchers, the Nile River is expected to fail to meet water demand rates by 2030 regularly. Despite this, since 2011 Ethiopia has been constructing the Grand Renaissance hydro-electric dam on the Blue Nile in an attempt to become an energy leader in the region. The dam’s completion threatens Egypt’s water supply, which is only expected to worsen in the next decade, resulting in tensions between the two states that have the potential of turning violent.
Latin American countries have been the victim of foreign and national environmental extraction and degradation for centuries. The visible presence of climate change in the region has resulted in a multitude of socio-environmental conflicts between natives and extraction companies as well as disputes between indigenous peoples and national authorities over the protection of ancestral lands.
Across Central, Northern, and Western Africa, conflicts between pastoralists and farmers have continually increased with the disputes being closely related to climate change. Higher global temperatures, lower rainfall levels, desertification, and droughts have severely impacted the availability of water resources and arable land on the continent. As a result, pastoralists have been forced to change their territorial migration patterns, which has resulted in resource conflicts with farmers.
Climate change and human activity have resulted in massive deforestation within the Amazon Rainforest. Millions of indigenous Amazonian peoples live within the Amazon rainforest and are under threat of losing vital natural resources and entering into resource competition with one another if deforestation continues. As a result, indigenous groups and environmental activists have come in conflict with state authorities to cease deforestation, with the most prolific deforesting state being that of Brazil.
Civil war was present in South Sudan from December of 2019 until February of 2020. As a result of global warming-induced droughts and the mismanagement of natural resources during the war, a national famine was declared in 2017. The South Sudanese Environmental Minister, Deng Deng Hoc Yai, has said that climate change exacerbated the civil war. Climate change threatens to continue conflict in resource depleted regions and exacerbate the national famine.
For more information on this conflict, click this link to be directed to our South Sudan Civil War page.
Prior to the outbreak of the Arab spring, food prices in the Middle East increased due to droughts in the grain-producing countries of Russia, Canada, Ukraine, and Argentina. The increase in grain prices and decrease in availability in the Middle East agitated an already tense socio-political environment and contributed to the eventual culmination of the Arab spring in 2010.
For more information on this crisis, click this link to be directed to our Arab Spring page.
Nigeria has been subject to centuries of environmental exploitation and degradation. The Niger Delta has been extremely polluted, which has impacted thousands of lives in the region. Conflicts between armed jihadist groups and civilians, and violence between pastoralists and farmers has greatly increased in the past decade as the state’s natural resources are adversely affected by global warming. These conflicts have the tendency of evolving into large inter-ethnic and intra-state conflicts that have greatly affected the security of Nigeria.
Immediately before the outbreak of civil war in Syria, the state suffered from extreme drying and drought between 2006-2011. The drought was a direct result of global warming and reported as the worst on record for the country. During 2006-2007, arable land, water resources, and agricultural products deteriorated. In response to the loss of natural resources, there was mass migrations from rural areas to urban centers that caused internal socio-political tensions that acted as an agitator for the outbreak of civil war in March of 2011.
For more information on this conflict, click this link to be directed to our Syrian Civil War page.
Conflicts Climate Change will Impact/Cause in the Future
China has claimed complete sovereignty of the South China Sea and the crucial trade routes and large deposits of oil found in the sea’s bed. China’s claim has caused international territorial disputes and threats of military intervention. Climate change threatens to lower the level of fish stock in the South China Sea and the landscape of the sea’s coast, which, in the future, could agitate inter-state relations in the region.
For more information on this conflict, click this link to be directed to our South China Sea Dispute page.
Currently, Venezuela is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. The state has been extremely mismanaged and is highly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. Global warming will cause extensive degradation of agriculture yields and arable land, resulting in food and water resource instability. If sustainable development and climate change reform are not prioritized, it is highly likely that Venezuela will suffer from resource conflicts in the future.
For more information on this crisis, click this link to be directed to our Crisis in Venezuela page.
The regions of Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East are highly vulnerable to climate change’s adverse effects. Dwindling water resources and conflicts over land usage continue to rise in tandem with the increasing impacts of climate change globally. In Latin America, the melting of the Andean glaciers, deforestation, and the loss of vital natural resources, accompanied by subsequent mass migrations pose a severe threat to the region’s vulnerable socio-political environment. In the Middle East and Africa, increasing droughts and the degradation of land and water resources have agitated multiple civil wars and armed conflicts. Due to the incapacity of many governments in Africa and the Middle East to efficiently respond to such threats, in part due to ongoing conflicts in the regions, if climate change continues, it is expected for resource conflicts and terrorism activity on both continents to increase exponentially.
Climate change increases the mean temperature and acidity of global oceans. As a result, it is harder for organisms such as shrimp, oysters, and coral systems to form their shells. Additionally, the oceans have become overfished in recent history, which has resulted in lower fish stocks. If global warming continues on its current upwards trend, the ecology of the sea is expected to dwindle and cause international disputes over maritime law, territory, and fishing rights.
Southeast Asia is a highly vulnerable region to climate change. Rising sea levels, global temperature increases, flooding, and extreme weather events threaten the natural resources and security of the area. If climate change continues on its current upwards trend, mass migration, food instability, and inter-state resource and border conflicts are expected.
The Pacific Islands are highly vulnerable to climate change due to rising sea levels, increasing oceanic acidity, and global warming. Such events will reduce arable lands and natural resources on the islands, which will result in the loss of agriculture production. If climate change continues on its current upward trend, it is expected for inter and intra-state resource conflicts, and international fishing disputes to increase significantly in the region.
If global warming continues on its current upwards trend, it is expected for rising sea levels and the degradation of land and water resources to result in global mass migrations. Such migrations and changes in coastal territories will lead to future international border conflicts and inter-state resource competition.
North Africa and the Middle East have suffered from the insurrection of armed and jihadist groups for years. Such groups have a proven history of using climate change to their advantage through securing vital natural resources to increase their spheres of influence. If climate change continues on its current upwards trend, it is highly likely for armed and jihadist groups to increasingly use dwindling natural resources to secure power holds in the region.
Latin America has had a long history of armed group insurrection and gang activity. Such groups have used climate change to their advantage by securing dwindling natural resources to achieve power holds in the region. If climate change continues on its current upwards trend, it is expected for armed groups to continually put pressure on national authorities and local communities through the withholding of vital resources.
Latin American countries have been the victim of foreign and national environmental extraction and degradation for centuries. The visible presence of climate change in the region has resulted in a multitude of socio-environmental conflicts between natives and extraction companies, as well as conflicts between indigenous peoples and national authorities over the protection of their ancestral land.
Ecoterrorism is defined as actions that purposely cause environmental damage for political means. If global warming increases on its current upwards trend, it is expected for ecoterrorism to rise on behalf of armed groups as they capitalize on the control and destruction of natural resources to increase their spheres of influence.
In 1895, Noble Prize-winning scientist Svante Arrhenius suggested that increasing C02 emissions from burning fossil fuels could lead to global warming. His discovery derived from an attempt to explain past ice ages, where he theorized a decrease in volcanic activity could lower global C02 levels. His experiments showed that if C02 levels were halved, global temperatures could decrease by 5 degrees Celsius. However, at the time, his discovery was disputed by many scientists who did not believe humans alone had the capability of changing the Earth’s climate.
Between 1920 and 1930, 8 million hectares of rainforests were deforested globally. At the time, the global population was growing at a significant rate, and tropical rainforests such as the Amazon became extraction targets for the rapidly industrializing global economy.
Also known as the 1993 London Convention, this was an agreement between former colonial powers for the conservation of nature. The convention is one of the first general conservation agreements in Africa, and the first agreement specifically tailored to protecting plants. The convention obligated its signatories to establish parks and reserves where human settlement was limited and to give special protection to a list of specified species.
Guy Stewart Callender’s research on global warming first appeared in the quarterly journal of the Royal Meteorological Society in April 1938. He collected data on world temperatures and suggested that global warming was related to C02 emissions. His discovery would become known as the “Callendar Effect.”
According to the UN Interagency Framework Team for Prevention Action’s 2012 Renewable Resources and Conflict report, 40 percent of civil wars from 1952-2012 were associated with natural resources.
Charles Keeling, a geochemist for the Scripps Institution, aided in creating a way to globally record C02 levels. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography, formerly known as Marine Biological Association (formed in September 1903), discovered what is now known as the “Keeling Curve.” The curve showed a steady increase in C02 levels and jagged up-and-down levels of produced gas caused by the changing of the seasons in the Northern Hemisphere.
In the 1960s, the Brazilian government offered subsidies to encourage cattle ranching in the Amazon. Deforestation of the Amazon provided new land for the cattle industry to grow, and the government offed tax exemption programs for large beef producers. Further growth of the cattle industry solicited the more extensive deforestation of the rainforest.
The African Convention on Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources was signed in Algiers in 1968. The convention superseded the 1933 Convention Relative to Preservation of Fauna and Flora in their Natural State.
In the 1970s, the Lake Chad area suffered from a series of severe droughts that significantly reduced the size of the lake. The shrinking of the lake was so considerable that it could be noticed from space. Due to the droughts and loss of arable land and water resources in the area, conflict began to erupt over control of the lake between farmers and pastoralists who competed for greener land.
The Central Sahel Countries of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger suffered from a series of droughts during the 1970s and 1980s that classified them as ecologically fragile and highly impoverished. These droughts lowered water and other ecological resources that would leave these countries vulnerable to years of violence as migration and resource conflicts increased.
The UN Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment was an international conference held by the United Nations in 1972. It was the United Nation’s first major conference on global environmental issues and is regarded as the beginning of International Environmental Politics.
The UN Environment Program was created to coordinate the UN’s environmental agenda and assist developing countries with implementing environmental policies.
During the 1970s, Brazil began construction of the Trans-Amazonian Highway to connect the Amazon to Brazil’s growing cattle economy. The highway resulted in massive deforestation of the Amazon and acted as an incentive for the cattle industry growth.
EU Environmental Policy was formally adopted through the European Council’s declaration in Paris, 1972. The EU adopted its first Environment Action Program (EAP), and the first environmental ministries were established. The basic idea of the EU’s Environmental Policy was that prevention was better than ignorance, and the ‘polluter pays’ principle.
China Established its Environmental Protection Leadership Group in 1974, following the 1972 UN conference on the Human Environment. At first, the group had limited capabilities until the Chinese government announced environmental protection as a state policy in 1983. The group’s jurisdiction grew even more significant in 1998, following a year of disastrous flooding that led the Chinese government to upgrade the group to a ministry-level agency. After 1998, the Environmental Protection Leadership Group became known as the State Environmental Protection Administration.
The Geneva Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution of 1979 created protocols to regulate the emission of noxious gases. It was the first multilateral agreement addressing the issue and created a regional framework for Europe, North America, Russia, and the former Eastern Bloc countries for reducing transboundary air pollution.
The African Charter of 1981, also known as the Banjul Charter, was an international human rights charter created to promote and protect human rights in Africa. The Charter included articles specifically related to environmental rights. Article 24 accentuates the rights to a satisfactory general environment, and Article 21 refers to free disposal of wealth and natural resources.
Between 1982-1985, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon increased from 5% to 12%. The increase is primarily due to the construction of the Trans-Amazonian Highway and population and cattle industry growth in the region.
The Chinese government announced in 1983 that environmental protection would be promoted to a state policy. The adoption of environmental protection as a state policy allowed for greater promotion of environmental policies as well as increased authority for the Environmental Protection Leadership Group.
The Single European Act of 1986 provided an Environment Title, which allowed for the first legal basis for a standard environment policy with a goal of environmental preservation, the protection of human health, and the rational use of natural resources in the European Union. It was signed in Luxembourg on February 17th and The Hague on February 28th.
The Montreal Protocol is an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer. The treaty phases out the production of substances that deplete the ozone. The Treaty became effective in 1989, with 46 signatories.
1988 was recorded as the hottest summer on record (however, this record has been broken in the years since). The year saw widespread droughts and wildfires in America that raised the salience of global warming to the national level.
NASA scientist James Hansen presents models and testimony to Congress in 1988, where he famously said he was “99 percent sure” that global warming was already in process.
The IPCC was established in 1989 under the United Nations to provide a scientific view on climate change and its future political and economic effects. Since its creation, the IPCC has been enormously instrumental in releasing climate change data and prediction modules.
During the 1990s, Saddam Hussein drained Iraq’s marshlands to punish the rebellious tribesmen who lived there. The draining of the marshes caused a mass migration of the marsh tribespeople into urban areas. It was not until 2008 that 75% of the marshlands were restored. However, the marshlands have begun to deplete again with National Geographic reporting that, “the wetlands are now at 58 percent of their average pre-drained level and look to set to shrink below 50 percent.”
According to the UN Interagency Framework Team for Prevention Action’s 2012 Renewable Resources and Conflict report, at least 18 international conflicts were “fueled or financed by natural resources” between 1990-2012.
By 1990, 11 countries in arid or semiarid regions of Africa and the Middle East were recorded as having less than 1000 cubic meters of water available per person. The lack of widespread water availability continues to deteriorate in these regions and has led to resource-based conflicts and intra-state socio-political tensions.
The EEA was established in 1990 to support the development, implementation, and evaluation of environmental policy and to act as a conduit to inform the general public on the matter. The agency is responsible for providing independent information and analysis on the state of the environment and helping policymakers make informed decisions on the development of environmental legislation and policies.
In August of 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait in a bid to gain Kuwait’s lucrative oil resources. In response, America and the UN Security Council demanded Saddam Hussein remove his troop from the region. However, Hussein refused, and an American-led coalition of 34 countries began a strategic bombing campaign of Iraq. The invasion is a prime example of resource competition.
Also known as the Espoo Convention, the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context is a UN Economic Commission for Europe convention that was signed in Finland in 1991. The treaty obligates states that have agreed to the convention to carry out environmental impact assessments and create the general responsibility of states to notify and consult one another on all major projects that are likely to have adverse environmental effects across boundaries.
8 Arctic countries signed the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy in 1991. AEPS is a multilateral, non-binding agreement on environmental protection in the Arctic circle.
Also known as the Earth Summit, The United Nations Rio Conference on Environment and Development adopted the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). 154 signatories agreed to stabilize “greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous interference with the climate system.” The United States was the first industrialized country to ratify the UNFCCC. The treaty is non-binding and sets no mandatory limits to GHG emissions. However, the treaty does provide for future negotiations to set emission limits.
The 1993 Treaty of Maastricht made the environment an official EU policy area. The promotion of the environment to an official state policy allowed the EU to expand its environmental protection programs onto the international level.
The Pressure-State-Response Framework was created in 1994 for reporting national environmental performance reviews. The PSR framework works to show the connection between human pressure on land resources and the response to these changes as society attempts to rehabilitate the land.
The First Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC was held in Berlin in 1995. At the conference, the parties agreed that the mechanisms under the UNFCCC were not adequate and agreed to the Berlin Mandate. The Berlin Mandate initiated a period of negotiations to binding targets.
COP 2 was held in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1996. Attendees of the conference endorsed the results of the IPCC’s second assessment report, which led to calls for acceleration of negotiations of a legally binding protocol but was never adopted.
The 1996 Ottawa Declaration saw the formation of the Arctic Council. The Council includes the Arctic states of Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and America. The Arctic Council was designed to increase cooperation, coordination, and diplomacy among the Arctic States with the involvement of indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants. The Arctic Council has performed studies on climate change’s effects in the Arctic.
In the late 1990s, Uganda became involved in the political turmoil and conflicts of its neighbor, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) controlled the resource-rich Northeast area of the DRC and was accused of illegally extracting natural resources from the country. Uganda’s illicit behavior is an example of resource competition and exploitation.
The American Senate passed the 1997 Byrd-Hagel Resolution at a vote of 95 to 0. The Resolution was designed to undermine the Berlin Mandate from COP 1 that called for legally binding protocols under the UNFCCC.
The Kyoto Protocol was the first global agreement on the reduction of greenhouse gases. The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997 and called for the decreased emission of six greenhouse gases to 5.2 percent below 1990 levels during a target period of 2008-2012. The protocol included legally binding emission targets and offered three means of meeting these targets: emissions trading, the clean development mechanism (CDM), and joint implementation (JI).
1998 saw widespread flooding in China that lead the Chinese government to promote the Environmental Protection Leadership Group to a ministry-level agency. Following the promotion to the ministry level, the group became known as the State Environmental Protection Administration.
The Aarhus Convention established several public rights to the environment. The parties present at the convention are responsible for creating and implementing the provisions necessary to apply these rights. Such rights include the right to receive environmental information, the right to participate in environmental decision-making, and the right to review procedures to challenge public decisions that were made without respecting the public’s rights or environmental law in general.
COP 4 was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1998. The parties agreed to adopt the Buenos Aires Plan of Action, which allowed a 2 year period to develop mechanisms for implementing the Kyoto protocols. The conference also agreed to review the financial mechanisms of the convention every 4 years.
The 1999 Treaty of Amsterdam integrated the European Union’s environmental protection into all EU sectoral policies intending to promote sustainable development.
President George W. Bush decided not to send the Kyoto Protocol to Congress for ratification, resulting in the effective withdrawal of America from the agreement. The Bush administration explained the treaty’s rejection as being related to the economic burden of emission reductions. Shortly after America left the treaty, Canada followed as well.
The Third Report of the IPCC was released in 1997. The report said that global warming comparable to the end of the prior ice age is “very likely,” with a high risk of adverse effects.
The Sixth Conference of the Parties was divided into two parts after negotiations faltered in the first. The second part of the conference took place in 2001 in Bonn, Germany. The conference produced the “Bonn Agreements,” with all nations except the United States agreeing on the mechanisms for implementing the Kyoto Protocols.
The Seventh Conference of the Parties was held in Marrakesh, Morocco. The conference produced detailed rules for implementing the Kyoto Protocol, which became known as the Marrakesh Accords. The conference also saw the establishment of the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF).
The Eighth Conference of the Parties was held in Delhi, India. The conference adopted the Delhi Ministerial Declaration that called for developed countries to transfer technology to developing countries to minimize the adverse effects of climate change. Notably, Russia hesitated in the acceptance of the Delhi Ministerial Declaration.
Fighting began in Darfur in February 2003 when a new rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Army, began to launch attacks. The conflict followed decades of droughts in the Sahel region in the 1970s and 1980s that saw the advancement of the Sahara Desert Southward by nearly a mile every year and a decrease in annual median rainfall of 15-30 percent. Sudan and Darfur are home to incredibly diverse ecological systems, ranging from deserts in the North to semi-tropical zones in the south. In 2004, then US Secretary of State Colin Powell declared that a genocide was occurring in Sudan in his testimony to the US Senate. Many political scientists and ecologists have linked the rise in tensions in the regions to the forced migration of multiple ethnic groups due to climate change that increased the competition for natural resources.
The Ninth Conference of the Parties was held in Milan, Italy. The conference resulted in new emissions reporting guidelines based on IPCC recommendations. Additionally, the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) and the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) were further developed.
The Kyoto Protocol of 1997 officially took effect on February 16th. 141 nations had ratified the Kyoto Protocols in agreement to legally binding emission quotas. However, significant emissions producers such as America and Russia had withdrawn from the protocol before its activation.
Syria undergoes extreme drying and drought from 2006 to 2011, leading to the eventual Syrian Civil War of 2011. The droughts were the worst on record for the country and destroyed agriculture and mass migration into urban areas. The migration and decrease in the water supply and agriculture resulted in additional social stress, further agitated by refugees pouring into Syria to escape the war in Iraq. Many political scientists regard the droughts as an instigating factor to the eventual onset of the civil war.
New ExxonMobil CEO, Rex Tillerson, changed the company’s stance on climate change from the previous denial to announced acceptance of climate change’s legitimacy. In his 2006 interview with the New York Times, Rex Tillerson said, “We recognize that climate change is a serious issue. We recognize that greenhouse gas emissions are one of the factors affecting climate change.”
In June of 2006, protests began in the Peruvian city of Arequipa against the city’s copper mine’s acquisition of additional water rights and previous tax exemption. The copper mine is the third-largest in Peru, and after the protests entered into negotiations to become co-provider of the city’s water services to resolve tensions.
Then Premier of the People’s Republic of China, Wen Jiabao, made 48 references to the environment and pollution in his 2007 annual address to the Chinese people. Jiabao emphasized China’s role in environmental protection, and shortly following his speech, stricter environmental regulations were implemented. However, many internal environmental goals were still left unreached.
In April of 2007, the UN Security Council (UNSC) held its first-ever debate on the impact climate change would have on security and peace. The meeting was called by the UK and examined the relationship between energy, security, and climate. British Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, warned of migration on an enormous scale due to flooding, disease, and famine from droughts that could agitate competition over food, water, and energy. The meeting was instrumental for the UN as it identified climate change as a threat multiplier.
CNA Corporation stated in their 2007 National Security and the Threat of Climate Change report that, “Climate change can act as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world, and it presents significant national security challenges for the United States.” The term ‘threat multiplier’ became increasingly popular in the study of climate change conflicts as an explanation of how climate change can result in public unrest.
In 2007, then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon declared Darfur as the world’s first climate change conflict. In a statement made by Ki-Moon, he said, “amid the diverse social and political causes, the Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis, arising at least in part from climate change.” Ki-Moon pointed to the years of severe drought and expansion of the Sahara desert, both of which he connected to climate change, as agitating factors in the violence.
The IPCC released a major report in November of 2007 that confirmed that climate change is occurring and mostly as a result of human activity. The report was produced by a collaborative effort of 500 authors and 2,000 expert reviewers and is widely regarded as the most definitive report to date on global warming.
Al Gore, a former American presidential nominee, won a noble prize for his work on climate change following his film “The Inconvenient Truth” and years of climate change advocacy. In his acceptance speech, Gore said, “now comes the threat of climate crisis – a threat that is real, rising, imminent, and universal. Once again, it is the 11th hour. The penalties for ignoring this challenge are immense and growing, and at some near point would be unsustainable and unrecoverable.”
At the 13th ASEAN summit, the organization announced its commitment environmental sustainability. ASEAN released a statement from the summit saying, “We intend to work closely with the international community to better understand and adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change, including, in particular, the related issues of greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sinks”. The announcement was the first of its kind to directly accept climate change and environmental sustainability as a policy issue for the organization.
The Thirteenth Conference of the Parties was held in Bali in 2007. The parties agreed to the Bali Action Plan, which negotiated GHG mitigation actions after the Kyoto Protocol expired in 2012. However, the plan did not include binding targets for developing countries.
Both major 2008 democratic presidential candidates, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, supported a mandatory cap on carbon emissions. Additionally, the democratic platform called climate change, “an epochal, man-made threat to the planet.”
John McCain, the 2008 Republican candidate who ran against Barack Obama, announced support for Climate Change legitimacy and for cap-and-trade legislation that would require those responsible for major carbon emissions to reduce emissions or buy credits to offset future emissions. “Instead of idly debating the precise extent of global warming or the precise timeline of global warming, we need to deal with the central facts of rising temperatures, rising waters and all the endless troubles that global warming will bring,” said McCain in a campaign speech.
American House speakers Newt Gingrich and Nancy Pelosi filmed a television ad to promote public education and awareness of climate change in 2008. The ad was the first public announcement of bipartisan agreement on the issue and raised the salience of climate change as a national security issue in America.
In 2019, Human Rights watch reported that “more than 300 people have been killed during the last decade in the context of conflicts over the use of land and resources in the Amazon — many of them by people involved in illegal logging.” HRW’s report is based off of data from the Pastoral Land Commission, which is a non-profit group affiliated with Catholic Church. Of the over 300 deaths, only 14 went to trial.
In Barack Obama’s 2009 State of the Union address he spoke on the “ravages of climate change” and called for a “market-based cap” on carbon pollution. The cap would limit the level of carbon emissions produced, with companies that exceeded the cap able to buy additional credit from companies that produced less than their given amount. The cap and trade emission policy gave financial incentives to companies to reduce their emissions.
On June 5th, in the Bagua province of Peru, 32 people were killed in demonstrations held by indigenous people against oil and gas extraction in the Amazon. The violence began after police were given instructions to remove demonstrators. The protest was long-running and held by indigenous people of the region that wished to protect their ancestral land from degradation.
The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 passed through the House, but was dropped by Democratic Senate leader, Harry Reid, before it could enter the Senate and pass into legislation. The Bill was intended to reduce pollution and move America towards a clean-energy based economy. Harry Reid said he dropped the bill in the Senate because, “We know that we don’t have the votes.” The failure of the bill to pass into legislation marked a major setback for the Obama Administration in its fight against climate change.
Akio Kitoh of Japan’s Meteorological Research Institute predicted that climate change induced droughts will result in the Euphrates water flow falling up to 73 percent within this century. “The ancient Fertile Crescent will disappear in this century,” said Akio, “the process has already begun.” Loss of the Euphrates will result in mass migration of the peoples of the Fertile Crescent that could result in resource competition and ethnic tensions.
Within the 2009 Treaty of Lisbon “combatting climate change” on the international level became a clear goal. The European Committee said in a statement that, “the Lisbon Treaty stresses the importance of combating climate change on an international level. Environment policy is based on the principles of precaution, prevention and rectification at source and on the principle that “the polluter should pay”. Lastly, the Treaty states that the Union’s environment policy must take account of the diversity of situations in the various regions of the European Union.” The treaty became effective on December 13th, 2007.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) found historical linkages between civil war and temperature in Africa. Their 2009 study found that, “this historical response to temperature suggests a roughly 54% increase in armed conflict incidence by 2030, or an additional 393,000 battle deaths if future wars are as deadly as recent wars.”
The Fifteenth Conference of the Parties was held in Copenhagen, Denmark. The conference failed to reach an agreement on binding targets after the Kyoto Protocol expired in 2012. However, towards the final hours of the conference, leaders from Brazil, America, China, Indonesia, India, and South Africa agreed to the Copenhagen Accord. The Copenhagen Accord recognized the necessity to limit the rise of global temperatures beyond 2 degrees Celsius. There are no legally binding targets of commitments associated with the Copenhagen Accord. Instead, countries openly pledged to GHG reduction, and $100 billion was pledged to climate change aid in developing countries.
In 2010, NASA reported that 2000-2009 was the warmest decade on record. NASA’s data showed that, “throughout the last three decades, the GISS surface temperature record shows an upward trend of about 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade.”
The National Academy of Sciences released its most comprehensive report in May of 2010. Within the report it claimed that, “Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for — and in many cases is already affecting — a broad range of human and natural systems.”
In August of 2010, Russia instated an export ban on grain after severe droughts resulted in lower crop yields and higher grain prices. The ban lasted until June of 2011 and hit the countries of Egypt and Pakistan especially hard. Egypt relied on Russia for around 50% of its wheat imports prior to the ban and Pakistan was Russia’s fourth biggest consumer. Both countries saw a large spike in grain prices, with Pakistan reporting a 16% increase in the price of wheat.
In 2010, Boko Haram, an armed jihadist group based in Northern Africa, re-emerged in Nigeria. Climate change greatly aided the group in their securing of power by causing instability in Nigeria and the Lake Chad area through the reduction of the lake’s water capacity and surrounding arable land. In 2015, then American president Barack Obama commented on the role that climate change played in Boko Haram’s re-emergence, saying, “severe drought helped to create the instability in Nigeria that was exploited by the terrorist group Boko Haram.”
The Sixteenth Conference of the Parties was held in Cancun, Mexico. At the conference, the parties officially adopted the tenets of the Copenhagen Accord, which included limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, protecting vulnerable forests, and establishing a Green Climate Fund for developing countries.
2010 saw climate change events throughout the world that impacted global food prices. Severe droughts in Russia, Ukraine, China and Argentina resulted in decreased crop production, while storms in Canada, Australia and Brazil ravaged their agricultural sector. The result of such events was the rise in global food prices.
The Arab Spring started in Tunisia on December 18th, 2010. Violence and protests followed the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi in protest of police corruption and brutality. Although, the protests were not directly connected to climate change, many scientists agree that climate change induced droughts, migration, and high food prices were agitating factors in the buildup of the Arab Spring. The Center for Climate and Security and the Stimson Center noted that, “The Arab Spring would likely have come one way or another, but the context in which it did is not inconsequential. Global warming may not have caused the Arab Spring, but it may have made it come earlier.”
In January of 2011 revolution broke out in Egypt against increasing police brutality in the state. Although the revolution was about police brutality many scientists have linked the rise of food prices in Egypt due to climate change as a catalyst for the public unrest that eventually led to revolution.
The First Libyan Civil War of 2011 broke out with the Libyan Revolution. The war was between forces loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and foreign groups seeking to oust his authoritarian government. Although the war was not related to the climate in outward appearance, many scientists agree that climate change through the form of low rainfall amounts further undermined the country’s effort for peace. The decrease in water-availability increased instability within the country that agitated political tensions.
In March of 2011, civil war broke out in Syria. Climate change caused decades of drought that preceded the war. The droughts resulted in mass migration of rural citizens to Urban areas, causing rising political tensions. Between 2002-2010 Syria’s Urban population increased by 50 percent. The civil war itself was in protest of Bashar Al-Assad’s brutal crackdown on the people of Syria, however climate change was a highly agitating factor that contributed to the rapid buildup of violence.
Since 2011, Ethiopia has been building a large dam in an effort to become a regional leader in electricity exportation. However, it is expected that the dam will decrease water flow to Egypt by 25 percent. Considering that rainfall has decreased in the area annually and global temperatures continue to rise it is essential for Egypt to secure reliable water resources for their country. The Egyptian government has said that the dam with affect the water supply of nearly 100 million citizens. Egyptian officials have considered military action as recent as 2013.
In 2011, the European Union officially committed itself to a goal of stopping the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services by the year 2020. The EU made this commitment through its Biodiversity Strategy which strives to decelerate species extinction rates and ensure protection of ecological systems.
Somalia suffered from regional droughts in 2011 that have been linked to climate change. During the time of the droughts, jihadist fundamentalist group Al-Shabaab changed their tactics to include cutting off water supplies to cities to increase their power.
In July of 2011, The UN Security Council (UNSC) released a presidential statement by Peter Wittig that noted the possible security implications of climate change were crucial to take into context when climate issues drove conflict and challenged implementation of the council’s mandates or endangered peace processes. The presidential statement was the first of its kind to directly speak on climate change acting as a threat multiplier in conflicts.
The Seventeenth Conference of the Parties was held in Durban, South Africa. At the conference, the parties agreed to the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, which established a new international emissions reduction protocol. The Durban platform will come into force in 2020. Additionally, The EU agreed to extend their Kyoto Protocol target to 2017.
In May of 2012, a land dispute led to the death of at least 16 Fulani pastoralists by Dogon farmer in Sari. The massacre remains unpunished and was instrumental in encouraging pastoralists in the region to acquire arms to protect themselves, with some even joining jihadist groups in response.
In April of 2012, a new power plant project was set to begin in the Southern town of Yinggehai, China. Following the announcement of the new plant, protests broke out in the town that resulted in the successful halting of the project. When another town was selected for the new location of the plant, residents in of that town followed in protest as well. Overall, during 2012 there were 50,000 protests in the country for environmental protection.
On November 6, 2012, future American President Donald Trump tweeted to his millions of followers his opinion on climate change. The tweet said, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” With the tweet Donald Trump clearly demonstrated his stance on climate change’s non-existence, a theme that would return in his 2016 presidential race where he ran on a platform of pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement and returning the use of coal to the energy sector.
The Eighteenth Conference of the Parties was held in Doha, Qatar. At the conference parties agreed to extend the expiring Kyoto Protocol by creating a second commitment phase that would begin on January 1st, 2013 and expire December 31st, 2020. However, parties failed to secure $100 billion in aid for developing countries, as agreed upon at COP 15 in Copenhagen. Instead, the concept of “loss and damage”, where developed countries pledge aid to developing countries for damages caused by climate change, was created.
In 2013, The African Union added 12 region-specific environmental and climate information services. Such services include: Monitoring of droughts, floods, vegetation, bush fires, agriculture, and water levels.
The Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel Initiative (GGWSSI) met in April of 2013. The Initiative promotes investment in sustainable land use practices and fights against environmental degradation and climate change. The Summit discussed implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) within the GGWSSI framework.
In October 2013, the Arctic Circle conducted its inaugural Assembly. The meeting included institutional and government representatives, as well as scientists, political and policy leaders, experts, activists, and indigenous people. The Arctic Circle Assembly is designed to increase the international focus on the Arctic.
In 2014, China announced a $277 billion plan to reduce air pollution in the country. The Chinese government had a goal of reducing air emissions by 25 percent by 2017, relative to its 2012 levels.
During the opening of the National People’s Congress in March 2014, General Secretary Xi Jinping declared war on pollution. Following his speech, a new environmental law was approved in April. The new law allowed environmental agencies to gain greater punitive power and gave independent environmental groups more ability to operate within China.
The African Union released their strategy for climate change in May 2014. The plan is built around four pillars: climate change governance, promotion of research, education, and advocacy, mainstreaming climate change imperatives in planning, budgeting, and development, and promotion of national, regional, and international cooperation. The strategy will provide member states with a single strategic plan for mitigation of climate change.
The Second Libyan Civil War in less than a decade broke out on May 16th, 2014. The War continues today and began between rival factions seeking control of Libya after the power vacuum created by the first civil war in 2011. The first civil war was partially credited to lower rainfall levels that exacerbated tensions within the state.
Iraq faced severe climate change events in 2014. Such events included droughts, flooding, and winds. The extreme weather events caused economic instability for many throughout the country, which ISIS capitalized on for its 2014 invasion of the country. ISIS targeted recruits who had been economically effected by climate change as a method to sew discord in the country.
At the 2014 UN Climate summit, then UK Prime Minister David Cameron called climate change “one of the most serious threats facing our world,” and labelled it as a threat to national and global security.
In March of 2015, Yemen erupted into its second brutal civil war. The Civil war is between two main factions: The Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi-led Yemeni government and the Houthi armed movement. The civil war was labeled by the New York Times as “the World’s worst humanitarian crisis.” A year before the civil war, in 2014, the World Bank announced that the water table of Yemen was already sinking annually in the countryside. The war in Yemen accelerated the decrease in water supplies across the country and with global temperatures and droughts still on the rise, water scarcity is likely to be a problem that will plague the country for years to come.
In April of 2015, Eusébio Ka’apor, the leader of the indigenous Ka’apor people was assassinated. Ka’apor organized forest patrols to prevent illegal logging in the Alto Turiaçu Indigenous Territory. Following his death, several other council leaders of the Ka’apor people were sent death threats from loggers.
The 2015 Pentagon Report, “National Security Implications of Climate Change-Related Risks and a Changing Climate,” acknowledged that climate change will have wide-ranging implications for American national security over the foreseeable future. Additionally, the report also identified climate change denial as a threat to national security.
In 2015, environmental defender Riamundo Santos was killed after reporting illegal logging activities in the Gurupi Biological Reserve. A landowner confessed to police that he had hired a retired police officer to aid in the assassination.
The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a global goal to end extreme poverty, cease inequality, and protect the planet by 2030. 193 countries adopted the SDGs in 2015, making it the most inclusive negotiations in UN history.
Prior to the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, NATO stated that climate change was a significant threat to security and its “bite has already been felt.” French Parliamentarian Philippe Vitel and the NATO parliamentary Assembly’s Special Rapporteur of the Science and Technology Committee said, “climate change is increasing the risk of violent conflict by exacerbating known sources of conflict, like poverty and economic shocks. The time to act is now.”
The Paris Agreement is a landmark environmental agreement that was adopted by nearly every country in the World in 2015. The agreement was specifically tailored towards climate change. 195 countries signed onto the agreement and pledged to set targets for their own greenhouse gas reduction. The Paris agreement is designed to prevent a global temperature rise past 2 degrees Celsius.
In 2016, violence in the Sahel of Africa increased five-fold. The violence is exacerbated by continued droughts and mass migrations caused by climate change. The UNOWAS chief commented that, “The impact of climate change on security also spawns a negative relationship between climate change, social cohesion, irregular migration and criminality in some places.”
NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that the Earth’s surface temperature in 2016 was the warmest on record since temperature record keeping began in 1880.
On February 20th, 2017, famine was declared in the South Sudan. The famine is a result of severe droughts coupled with violence from the South Sudan Civil War. The famine resulted in the mismanagement of natural resources that was exacerbated by lower rainfall amounts. The famine has left 40 percent of the country food insecure.
On June 1st, 2017, American President Donald Trump announced his intentions of withdrawing America, a leading emissions producer, from the 2015 Paris Agreement. In 2012 Trump tweeted of his disbelief in the legitimacy of climate change, which continues to be a theme of his presidency.
In November of 2017, indigenous leader Naraymi Suruí and his wife were attacked by two gunmen after confronting illegal logger in the Sete de Setembro Indigenous Territory. The gunmen who shot at him and his wife were recognized as two illegal loggers.
President Trump removed climate change from America’s National Security Strategy in December of 2019. At the time he stated that the real danger to America was regulations, not climate change.
The Escazú Agreement, also known as Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean, was signed by twelve Latin American and Caribbean countries in 2018. The agreements goals is to “deepen the link between environmental protection and human rights in Latin America and the Caribbean.”
In May of 2018, the Australian Senate Foreign Affairs and Defense and Trade References Committee reviewed the implications of climate change in relation to Australia’s national security. Their review was included in a senate inquiry report that identified climate change as a “current and existential national security risk” to Australia.
In June of 2018, The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Frederica Mogherini, hosted the high level event Climate, Peace and Security: The Time for Action. The event brought together leading international figures, think tanks, and civil society to discuss and highlight the ongoing threats climate change poses to security and peace. At the event Mogherini said, “sustainable peace requires good jobs, decent access to natural resources, and sustainable development. Sustainable peace needs climate action…So let us keep this in mind: when we invest in the fight against climate change, we invest in our own security.”
In August of 2018, Swedish teenager, Great Thunberg, began to protest outside of the Swedish parliament with the sign “School Strike for Climate.” By November of the same year, over 17,000 students in 24 countries were participating in climate strikes.
In October of 2018, The ICCP released a special report on the impact of global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius. The report concluded that “rapid, far reaching” actions were needed to cap global warming before irreversible consequences were to the environment.
In 2019, a series of massacres erupted in central Mali due to land and water resource competition. The violence caused 50,000 people to flee their homes and increased socio-political tension in the state.
According to the New York Times, at least seven indigenous leaders were killed in the Amazon in 2019 over conflicts related to land resources. Deforestation continues to increase in the Amazon, leading to conflicts between indigenous people and the Brazilian government who is responsible for a vast amount of the rainforest’s destruction.
2019 saw widespread wildfires in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, totaling to over 60,500 fires. The fires are more than double than that of the year before and signal severe degradation of the forest. Usually the Amazon’s tropical conditions made it nearly fireproof, but now scientists believe rising global temperatures are drying the rain forest.
The Pentagon’s 2019 “Report on Effects of a Changing Climate to the Department of Defense,” stated that climate change is a national security threat to America. The document cited climate-related events of recurrent flooding, drought, desertification, wildfires, and thawing permafrost as issues of national security. The report defied the beliefs of President Trump, who removed climate change from the National Security Strategy in 2017.
In February of 2019, seventeen Sahel countries met in the Niger’s capital of Niamey. The goal of the meeting was to adopt an investment plan for $400 billion over the period of 2019-2030 to combat the adverse effects of climate change.
UN Secretary General Guterres spoke at the 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the AU. Guterres notably said in his speech, “Climate change is an existential threat – particularly here in Africa, which has the least responsibility for the crisis but will shoulder some of the heaviest burden.”
In February of 2019, the Israeli Civil Administration and Border Police dug up water supply pipes to 17 Palestinian communities. The shutdown of water supply for the communities was a purposeful act by Israel to force the movement of Palestinian out of the area to make room for more Israeli settlements.
Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who inspired thousands of students to strike for climate change reform in 2018, was nominated for a Noble Peace Prize for her climate change advocacy work in 2019.
Tropical Cyclone Idai hit the Southeast coast of Mozambique in March 2019. The storm was an example of a climate change induced severe weather event, with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reporting that 1.85 million people were in need of assistance and 146,000 people were displaced due to the storm.
In March of 2019, the Chereponi region of Northeast Ghana erupted in ethnic armed violence over access to land and water resources in the area. The region is rich in arable land and water, with 60% of the land remaining uncultivated at the time. The resources of the region resulted in resource competition among ethnic lines and resulted in the fleeing of thousands in the area.
In March of 2019, environmental defender Dilma Ferreira Silva and five others were assassinated by the order of a Brazilian landowner. The landowner was involved in illegal logger and was reportedly scared Silva and her followers would report his illicit logging activity.
Beginning in June of 2019, widespread wildfires begin to ravage Australia. Thousands of acres of land were destroyed and it is reported that over a billion animals were killed in the fire. The wildfires have been linked to climate change and the rise of global temperatures.
The 864th meeting of the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU) was dedicated to the issue of climate change and natural disasters. The council expressed solidarity for AU member states that are adversely affected by climate change and emphasized that climate change can exacerbate community tensions. The council implored member states to create policies and reinforce measures to address climate change and prevent environmentally based conflicts.
In December of 2019, the European Union announced its new green deal. The deal is a roadmap for the EU’s economy to become more sustainable. The deal aims to make the EU the world’s first climate neutral continent by 2050.
The report released by the American Lung Association in April of 2020 found that 150 million American live in counties with unhealthy levels of pollution. 150 million Americans is equal to 45.8% of the population, essentially half of the country. Senior Vice President of Advocacy for the American Lung Association, Paul Billings, commented that, “What we’re seeing is an actual increase in the number of people breathing unhealthy air in this year’s report compared to last year’s report. And that is a result, we believe, of climate change. And also lack of enforcement and compliance by the U.S. EPA of the Clean Air Act.”
A report by the U.N. Environment Programme detailed the effects of rising temperatures and decreasing monthly precipitation in the regions of the West Bank and Gaza. These factors are predicted to exacerbate existing threats to available water in those regions, which include population growth, poor water management, and pollution. The aquifer that Gaza relies on is continuing to become contaminated with pollution and sea water.
The temperature in the town of Verkhoyansk hit 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit). The town is known for having the World’s widest temperature range and with this new report has broken its hottest record. Within 2020, Siberia has seen higher temperatures than normal, resulting in widespread wildfires in the region.
In June 2020, at least 15 people were killed in an Oaxanca village. The attack is linked to a dispute over a wind-power project that has faced local opposition because the project would encroach on local fishing, farming, and sacred spaces. Activists against the wind power project claim that the they were ambushed by security forces at a coronavirus checkpoint.
A Japanese-owned ship carrying at least 4,000 tons of fuel oil ran aground on a coral reef off of the southeast coast of Mauritius, spilling tons of oil out into the coastal waters. Oil spilled into surrounding environmentally protected ecosystems, including the Blue Bay Marine Park Reserve, which is a wetland of international importance. On 7 August 2020 the Mauritian government declared the spill a national emergency.
Over a fourteen hour period, a derecho formed over the state of South Dakota and moved east to Ohio in the United States with extremely powerful winds and thunderstorms. It left almost 2 million people without power. The state of Iowa was the most devastated by this climate event, with about 40% of the state’s crops destroyed.
In August 2020, the combination of a heat wave and a strike of lightning set ablaze wildfires in the state of California in the United States. Hundreds of homes were claimed by the flames and more than 100,000 people were forced to evacuate the area. One of the wildfires ranks as the second largest fire in California’s state history.
Tropical Storm Marco and Hurricane Laura hit the Gulf of Mexico concurrently in late August 2020. While Marco made landfall around the mouth of the Mississippi River and then subsequently became weaker, Laura gained strength from the warm waters of the Gulf and became a category 4 hurricane with winds of up to 150 miles per hour and deadly storm surges along the Gulf coastline.
A study conducted by the University of Leeds found that over the next century the geographical location of many high transmission areas for malaria in Africa will shift substantially due to ongoing climate and environmental change. The study suggested that as some regions become dryer and more arid, such as South Sudan, the malaria suitability of the area will decrease. However, the study pointed to river corridors like the Niger and Senegal rivers in Mali and Senegal as potential areas where malaria suitability can increase in the future as a result of climate shift.
The water levels of Lake Baringo and Lake Bogoria have been rising in Kenya, shrinking the distance between the two lakes from 20 km to just 13 km. A major cause of this was deforestation, which allowed for huge amounts of flash flooding that filled the bottom of the lakes with sediments. This caused more than 5,000 people to be displaced in 2020.
Wildfires raged in at least a dozen provinces in Argentina in early September 2020, with at least 22,000 fires happening across the province. The fires also affected one of the country’s most biodiverse regions.
Sudan’s Security and Defense Council declared a national state of emergency for three months due to floods that killed 99 people, injured 46 people, and designated Sudan as a natural disaster zone. The floods inflicted damage on more than half a million people and caused the partial or total destruction of at least 100,000 homes.
In March 2020, the Kichwa indigenous community in Ecuador closed off one of their villages in order to protect themselves from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, two weeks into their quarantine, two damaged oil pipelines caused crude oil to leak into the river the Kichwa community lives off of, contaminating the water. The lawsuit the community brought against oil companies OCP and Petroecuador was dismissed in September of 2020, denying the Kichwa the urgent environmental and community reparations they demanded from the government and the oil companies responsible.
The states of California, Oregon and Washington in the United States experienced devastating wildfires at the beginning of September that took at least 35 lives and released smoke into the air, giving the region the worst air quality in the world for that period of time. California governor Gavin Newsom attributed the severity of the region’s fire season to climate change.
A chunk of ice sized 44 square miles was found to have broken off of the Arctic’s largest remaining ice shelf in northeast Greenland. The ice shelf is the second biggest in the world behind Antarctica’s, and its melting has contributed to more than a millimeter rise in sea levels annually.
The noble pen shell, the largest Mediterranean clam, has appeared to be close to extinction due to the spread of a deadly pathogen, according to Croatian marine biologists. The pathogen affecting the clams is believed to have been on the increase due to rising sea temperatures related to climate change. The noble pen shell plays an important ecological role by filtering sea water for other organisms to flourish.
The deaths of over 300 elephants in Botswana was revealed to have been tied to toxins in water produced by cyanobacteria. Toxic cyanobacteria occur more frequently as climate change raises global temperatures.
Reports on Climate Change and Environmental Conflict
After a massive oil spill off the coast of Mauritius in early August 2020 and the subsequent mysterious deaths of 39 dolphins in coastal waters,
Responding to climate change has been at the top of much of the world’s to-do list lately, particularly that of the United Nations after their
The relationship between war and conflict, and their environmental threat is long established. In times of war, environmental regulations are often de-prioritized in exchange of