Climate change is one of the most pressing political issues of our time. Science is uncovering the unprecedented nature and scale of its impacts on people, economies and ecosystems. One critical dimension of these impacts is their effect on international peace and security.
Climate change itself is rarely a direct cause of conflict. Yet, there is ample evidence that its effects exacerbate important drivers and contextual factors of conflict and fragility, thereby challenging the stability of states and societies. This report summarises the state of knowledge regarding security risks related to climate change. To this end, it synthesises and contextualises the existing scientific evidence. It does not reflect all aspects of the debate that have emerged across social science but focuses on those that are particularly relevant at the political level.
The ten insights cluster around compound climate-related security risks that describe the complex interactions between climate change and important social, political, economic, and environmental drivers of conflict and fragility.
These are not just future security risks; they are already visible today, even as they are projected to increase.
There is ample evidence that climate change undermines international peace and security. However, we must assume that we continue to significantly underestimate these risks because of gaps in our capacity to fully appreciate important effects, particularly systemic effects. We know that the impacts of climate change will increase considerably over the coming decades. This does not imply that climate change by itself is a direct or the most significant single driver of conflict. Instead, it exacerbates many drivers of conflicts and fragility, thereby challenging the stability of states and societies and, ultimately, threatening international peace and security.
Berlin Climate and Security Conference | BCSC2020 | Part I | 23 June | State of the Art
Climate change will mean more fragility if we don’t act swiftly
If we do not act swiftly, climate change will mean more fragility, less peace and less security. The risks that climate change presents to international peace and security need to be addressed across the entire impact chain – by mitigating climate change, attenuating its consequences on ecosystems, better managing the heightened resource competition climate change will bring about, adapting socio-economic systems, and strengthening conflict management institutions. As this report shows, every dimension of the response needs to be conflict-sensitive – just as peacebuilding, humanitarian responses and socio-economic development need to become climate-sensitive.