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Climate and Ecological Crises

As the impact of global warming and ecological loss becomes evident, new triggers for conflict emerge. All activities are scrutinised for mitigation.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN body responsible for collating scientific evidence on the issue, has concluded that climate change impacts have the potential to exacerbate factors linked to conflict in some regions of the world. It can also act as a ‘threat multiplier’ that can worsen existing problems, especially in countries and regions with failing governments or existing conflict.

Alongside and interconnected with climate change is the ecological crisis. Scientists now agree that we are currently living in and presiding over the Earth’s sixth mass extinction event, a period defined as a loss of 75% of species. This has been caused by humans – the others have all been caused by volcanoes and meteors.

One of the consequences of this is changing weather patterns. As floods, droughts, storms, and food shortages become more frequent, there is a growing recognition that this could increase existing threats to international peace and security. Alongside humanitarian crises, including mass migration, transport and trade routes are likely to be disrupted, affecting global supply chains. Climate change can also affect infectious disease transmission, increasing the need for medical assistance, vaccinations, and personal protective equipment. Given this, the need for related military interventions to increase is expected. Serving personnel will have to operate in extreme ‘climate change-affected’ conditions more frequently. This may affect their physical and psychological well-being.

Some in our discussions were clearly concerned. “The government doesn’t see the environment as urgent enough in the first half of the next decade, but it will do in the second half. It will have a profound effect on defence.” Protecting trading routes was a particular concern. “It will be key to protect imports, and maintaining physical lines of communication like shipping will become increasingly important. We will need to make sure that goods arriving from the Far East, where we are increasingly reliant, actually arrive. There will be a role for the military: to protect imports and maintain physical lines of communication.”

In addition to the physical effects of these twin crises, many expect a shift in funding and fundraising priorities, as both Governments and the public prioritise green issues over others. This, some fear, will reduce the amount of funds available to other sectors. “Undoubtedly more money is going into the green sector, climate change, and climate action. It is very much driven by a younger generation, and we won’t be able to resist it, even if we wanted to.”

An Implication: A growing role for the military in mitigating the effects of climate change, as well as the causes of biodiversity loss, boosts levels of public support.

 

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