Climate - Migration - Security
Addressing Complex Crisis Scenarios in the 21st Century
The intersection of climate change, human migration, and conflict presents a unique challenge for US foreign policy in the 21st century. These three factors are already beginning to combine in ways that undermine traditional understandings of national security and demand a rethink of traditional divisions between diplomacy, defense, and economic, social and environmental development policy abroad. Addressing this nexus—of climate change, migration, and conflict—will be a core challenge of this century. As the number of migrants, driven in part by environmental degradation, continues to grow, the adaptive capacity of states worldwide will be strained, and new security gaps will appear in which non-state actors have the potential to flourish. Addressing this challenge will require understanding, preparation, and new models of regional cooperation.
This project is a cooperation with the Center for American Progress
Rising Tensions and Policy Options Across the Subcontinent
By Arpita Bhattacharyya and Michael Werz
South Asia will be among the regions hardest hit by climate change. Higher temperatures, more extreme weather, rising sea levels, increasing cyclonic activity in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, as well as floods in the region’s complex river systems will complicate existing development and poverty reduction initiatives. Coupled with high population density levels, these climate shifts have the potential to create complex environmental, humanitarian, and security challenges. India and Bangladesh, in particular, will feel the impacts of climate change acutely.
The consequences of climate change will change conditions and undermine livelihoods in many areas. And extreme events and deteriorating conditions are likely to force many to leave their homes temporarily or even permanently for another village, city, region or country.
In this paper we examine the role of climate change, migration, and security broadly at the national level in India and Bangladesh-and then zero in more closely on northeast India and Bangladesh to demonstrate the interlocking problems faced by the people there and writ larger across all of South Asia.
Download introduction & summary: PDF
Download the full report: PDF
Rising Dangers and Policy Options Across the Arc of Tension
By Michael Werz, Laura Conley
Northwest Africa is crisscrossed with climate, migration, and security challenges. From Nigeria to Niger, Algeria, and Morocco, this region has long been marked by labor migration, bringing workers from sub-Saharan Africa north to the Mediterranean coastline and Europe. To make that land journey, migrants often cross through the Sahel and Sahel-Saharan region, an area facing increasing environmental threats from the effects of climate change. The rising coastal sea level, desertification, drought, and the numerous other potential effects of climate change have the potential to increase the numbers of migrants and make these routes more hazardous in the future.
For the United States and the international community, this region is critical because of its potential for future instability. The proximity of Algeria and Morocco to Europe, Nigeria’s emerging role as one of Africa’s most strategically important states, and Niger’s ongoing struggles with governance and poverty all demand attention. Northwest Africa’s porous borders and limited resources, which allow Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb to flourish there, suggest that there is no time to waste in developing better and more effective policies for the region.
This paper tracks how the overlays and intersections of climate change, migration, and security create an arc of tension in Northwest Africa comprising Nigeria, Niger, Algeria, and Morocco.
Click here to read Climate Change, Migration, and Conflict in Northwest Africa (full report) (84 pages, pdf, 5.93MB)
Click here to read Climate Change, Migration, and Conflict in Northwest Africa (introduction and summary) (18 pages, pdf, 2.85MB)
By Michael Werz and Laura Conley
The costs and consequences of climate change on our world will define the 21st century. Even if nations across our planet were to take immediate steps to rein in carbon emissions—an unlikely prospect—a warmer climate is inevitable. As the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, noted in 2007, human-created “warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level.”
As these ill effects progress they will have serious implications for U.S. national security interests as well as global stability—extending from the sustainability of coastal military installations to the stability of nations that lack the resources, good governance, and resiliency needed to respond to the many adverse consequences of climate change. And as these effects accelerate, the stress will impact human migration and conflict around the world.
It is difficult to fully understand the detailed causes of migration and economic and political instability, but the growing evidence of links between climate change, migration, and conflict raise plenty of reasons for concern. This is why it’s time to start thinking about new and comprehensive answers to multifaceted crisis scenarios brought on or worsened by global climate change. As Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, argues, “The question we must continuously ask ourselves in the face of scientific complexity and uncertainty, but also growing evidence of climate change, is at what point precaution, common sense or prudent risk management demands action.”
In the coming decades climate change will increasingly threaten humanity’s shared interests and collective security in many parts of the world, disproportionately affecting the globe’s least developed countries. Climate change will pose challenging social, political, and strategic questions for the many different multinational, regional, national, and nonprofit organizations dedicated to improving the human condition worldwide. Organizations as different as Amnesty International, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the World Bank, the International Rescue Committee, and the World Health Organization will all have to tackle directly the myriad effects of climate change.
Climate change also poses distinct challenges to U.S. national security. Recent intelligence reports and war games, including some conducted by the U.S. Department of Defense, conclude that over the next two or three decades, vulnerable regions (particularly sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia) will face the prospect of food shortages, water crises, and catastrophic flooding driven by climate change. These developments could demand U.S., European, and international humanitarian relief or military responses, often the delivery vehicle for aid in crisis situations.
This report provides the foundation and overview for a series of papers focusing on the particular challenges posed by the cumulative effects of climate change, migration, and conflict in some of our world’s most complex environments. In the papers following this report, we plan to outline the effects of this nexus in northwest Africa, in India and Bangladesh, in the Andean region of South America, and in China. In this paper we detail that nexus across our planet and offer wideranging recommendations about how the United States, its allies in the global community, and the community at large can deal with the coming climate-driven crises with comprehensive sustainable security solutions encompassing national security, diplomacy, and economic, social, and environmental development.
Click here to read the report Climate Change, Migration, and Conflict (52 pages, pdf, 868KB)
Click here to read the Introduction and Summary of Climate Change, Migration, and Conflict (12 pages, pdf, 207KB)