Climate change and environmental crises

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.’ According to the United Nations, climate change is a ‘threat multiplier’ due to its destructive effects on natural resources, such as arable land and water supply, which act as significant instigators in violence. Such violence can result in water/land rights conflicts, mass migration, increased ethnic tension, and ecoterrorism. Current climate change conflicts include the River Nile conflict between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan, as well as Arctic Circle territorial disputes. As such, climate change is a significant threat to security, not only on a domestic level for states but also on a global scale. However, the adverse effects of climate change are not equally distributed, and it is often resource and developing countries that are the most vulnerable to climate change-related conflicts.

Countries with low levels of natural resources and weak economies often cannot effectively respond to climate change threats, threatening to weaken domestic governance and deprive civilians of their essential needs. In resource-poor countries, the preservation and acquisition of resources can heighten tensions between local groups and international actors through the trade of such resources and disputes over resource rights. The latter is seen in the River Nile conflict between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia, which have been disputing Ethiopia’s water rights to the Nile over the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam for nearly a decade. Both Egypt and Sudan are highly dependent on the Nile for their national water supplies, and Egypt is projected to become water insecure by 2025. In terms of economically developing countries, such as those in the African Sahel, governments cannot counteract adverse climate change events, resulting in migration crises and the rise of insurrection groups that weaken domestic governance and create national or even regional political instability.    

Over the next several decades, climate change is projected to cause global mass displacements, death, and intra/international conflict. According to current data, sea levels are rising at a rate of 3.3 millimeters per year, and in 2019 33 gigatons of Carbon emissions were released into the Earth’s atmosphere. Climate change will change global coastlines, habitable land, and available natural resources. The United Nations projects that climate change will impoverish 100 million people by 2030, and 143 million people will be displaced in Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and South Asia by 2050. The best method to avoid climate change’s adverse effects on the environment and humanity is through the significant reduction of Carbon and waste emissions and the building of climate change resilient infrastructure in vulnerable regions. International treaties and agreements such as the Paris Peace Accords offer a critical basis for carbon emission reduction. However, all countries need to sign onto such agreements and future agreements to expand their environmental protection scope as global warming continues on its upward trajectory.

Ongoing Climate and Environmental Crises

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