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Climate Change is a Security Threat – So Where is the UN Security Council?

June 26, 2018 |

By Mustafa Bader [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

This article was originally published on the Conversation.

“Climate change is one of the great security challenges of the 21st century. As the world warms, conflicts over water, food or energy will become more common and many people will be forced from their homes. Scientists, think-tanksNGOsmilitaries and even the White House (albeit under President Obama) all agree that climate change threatens human safety and well-being. Yet the organisation charged with global security has remained relatively silent.

…The council has a history of taking tentative steps when moving into new territory, and climate change will not be an exception. In 2011 a statement made by then-president of the Security Council (a position that rotates between member states each month) loosely linked climate change and traditional security challenges. In 2017, the council unanimously adopted Resolution 2349, which hinted that climate change had contributed to conflict and instability around Lake Chad and the wider Sahel region. And in January 2018 a second presidential statement twice referenced climate change in the context of instability in the Sahel region.

These statements fall short of finding climate change an explicit security threat, but do they show the council is steadily becoming more comfortable with the subject. And without that degree of comfort we would likely not have seen the passing of Resolution 2408 on March 27, 2018.

This resolution, again adopted unanimously, extended the mandate of the UN mission in Somalia for another year and became the latest council resolution to include reference to climate change. The language remains speculative and the council is careful to only recall its 2011 statement instead of making a bolder standalone declaration on climate security.

However, inclusion of the expression “grave concern” in regard to the drought and famine engulfing Somalia is proof that the council is experiencing a change of perspective. It is beginning to make discursive links between environmental realities and security, using the language often reserved for terrorism or nuclear weapon proliferation.

The resolution fails to indict climate change as the cause of these problems yet it is nonetheless progress. After years of dispute council members are starting to agree on the inclusion of the words “climate change” in a resolution – a big step forward for the world’s most powerful but politically polarised body…”

Read on at: the Conversation.

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