Discussion summary: climate-security nexus

Peace, Security & Defence

This is a summary of the recently concluded discussion on the seventh edition of Debating Security Plus (DS+). DS+ is a global online brainstorm that brings together a community of global security experts who will come together throughout the year to discuss the changing nature of warfare and its implication for the global thinking on peace, security and defence.


Climate change and resource scarcity are inextricably linked to peace and security as the impact of climate change is that of a threat multiplier. Our discussion on the climate-security nexus, brought many interesting insights from across the globe. The Debating Security Plus team also joined the annual Planetary Security Conference organised by Clingendael Institute in the Hague.  As Leona Romeo-Marlin, Prime Minister of St Maartin, argued¸ climate change causes natural disasters with devastating economic, financial and social consequences that directly affect peace and security.

Celine Charveriat, Executive Director at the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), explained that in the period from 1970 to 2017, the global extraction of materials increased by more than 240%. Resource scarcity is an environmental driver commonly linked to conflicts around the world and the way companies and citizens extract and consume these resources has a direct impact on climate change and global security. This is why, according to Charveriat, we need to move to a more circular economy, reducing the use of resources substantially.

Monica Sanders, Lecturer at Georgetown University, argued that to achieve this sift, we need to find ways to understand what the cost of adaption is across groups and figure out ways to make these changes acceptable. “The issue here is not how to persuade politicians to change. It is about offering them a manageable pathway to change”.

These changes should also apply to the military forces as they are both causing and suffering the consequences of climate change. General Tom Middendorp, Chief of Defence of the Armed forces of the Netherlands until 2017, who we linked up with in the Hague, stated that looking at only military threats is no longer valid. “Climate and security are both topics that are of existential importance to anybody”. Therefore, the military needs to prepared to address the expanding threats provoked by climate change in all their missions and no matter where they are while also being part of a wider solution to these threats.  To do so, a whole government approach and beyond is necessary.

US Navy Rear Admiral Ann C. Phillips at the same meeting, argued that the military should continue the development of new technologies and strengthen the relationship between the military, research, and development to facilitate military missions and increase resilience to climate change.

Sherri Goodman, Senior Advisor for International Security at The Center for Climate and Security, added that legislators should hold agencies to account on how they carry out the adaptation and deal with climate change:  “the opportunity, and challenge, is still connecting the dots between climate and security”.

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