Getting ready

The environmental and security communities are finding new ways of collaborating to prepare for the increasing number of conflicts that will arise from climate change and other environmental stresses.

Sherri Goodman, Executive Director of the Military Advisory Board Photo: IUCN/Group J. Muntaner

Climate change will do more than raise the temperature. It will alter natural environments and human lifestyles. The impacts will vary, but in some areas, the changes will threaten livelihoods and incite social tension. New types of conflict will arise over resources such as water and productive land, creating new challenges to maintaining social stability. There will be a large-scale displacement of people and disruption to economies.

In many armed conflicts, the situations on the ground are linked ecologically, politically, economically and socially. Climate change will only aggravate this complexity. Think tanks – both ecological and military – and organizations including IUCN are now exploring and discussing scenarios, charting the events that may arise, investigating feasible responses and identifying suitable partnerships.

In a Congress workshop, representatives from environmental and military backgrounds including ecologists, retired army generals and security analysts explored the issues and how they can work together.

“Militaries around the world will be involved in rapid response to disasters arising from extreme climate events as they have greater capacity than civil society organizations,” said Jeff McNeely, IUCN’s Chief Scientist. “The military may need to redefine its mission and invest in national defence in its broader sense, to encompass the protection of natural resources. In Thailand, the military is already planting trees.”

“This meeting is a landmark achievement in bringing together the environmental and security communities,” said Sherri Goodman, Executive Director of the Military Advisory Board. “Climate change is a security threat that will bring instability in some regions of the world. It is urgent that military leaders join with environmental organizations and scientists to advance our understanding of environmental change and make us better able to prepare.”

Another area of collaboration between the two communities could focus on biodiversity conservation. In many countries, the military owns or controls vast areas of land that are often rich in biodiversity. IUCN and its members are likely to become more involved with the Armed Forces in the coming years in finding the best ways to conserve biodiversity and ecosystems.

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