By Dr Clever Gomba
This article provides a summary of the link between climate change and human security in developing countries. In the other articles the writer referred to how climate change will act as a threat multiplier affecting agriculture with specific references to agriculture sector and health sector.
This article further explores the link between climate change and human security, indicating how climate change will complicate current human security concerns and introducing new threats to the existence of human beings.
The securitization of climate change is evolving through various stages in the international discourse of global warming.
In the process I will give a brief historical understanding of the concept of security, indicating the paradigm shift from state-centric approach of security to a more holistic approach to security which includes ‘soft issues’ such as poverty, diseases, global warming etc. as major threats to human existence. Africa has historically been a victim and not the voice.
The leading nations of the world have put Africa on most international agendas, but without urgent, appropriate intervention climate change will undermine any efforts at poverty alleviation, as well as attempts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and a crippled Africa will be a threat to world security (Stern Review 2006: i-xi).
Research indicates that climate change will have dramatic effects on the availability of scarce resources, especially in developing countries like Zimbabwe and its neighbouring states. Climate change creates an alternative path to scarcity and collapse.
Volatile weather patterns swinging between extremes, coupled with changes in rainfall and temperature, have the capacity to reshape the productive landscape of entire regions and to exacerbate food, water and energy scarcities, as envisaged in traditional models.
Secondly, climate change could contribute to destabilizing unregulated population movements, most of which will be internal, but the ripple effects of which will be felt beyond national boundaries.
Thirdly, more extreme weather conditions may lead to more serious natural disasters, stretching the resource and coping capacity of developing countries. Also, extreme weather events and climate related disasters will trigger short term disease spikes but will also have longer term health implications as certain infectious diseases become more widespread.
Compounding this problem is the predicted exacerbation by climate change on a variety of health problems, leading to widespread malnutrition and diarrhoea diseases and altered distribution of some vector diseases transmission such the malaria (Perry, 2007). Climate change creates an alternative path to scarcity and collapse.
As a macro-driver of many kinds of environmental changes such as coastal erosion, declining precipitation and soil moisture, increased storm intensity and species migration, climate change poses risks to human security (McCarthy, Cinziani, Leary, Dokken& White, 2001).
In most parts of the world, the impacts of climate change on social-ecological systems will be experienced through both changes in mean conditions (such as temperatures, sea level and annual precipitation) over a long-time scales, but also through increases in the intensity and in some cases frequency of flood, droughts, storms and cyclones, fires, heat waves and epidemics.
The IPCC (2007) also highlights a number of regions that will be predominantly exposed to climate change, including the Arctic, Africa, small islands, and densely populated coastal “mega deltas” in Asia and Africa such as the Nile, Ganges-Brahmaputra and Mekong, where tens of millions will be at an inflated risk of acute flood and storm damage, chronic coastal flooding and loss of coastal wetlands.
In order to shed further light on the connection between climate change and security there is need to acknowledge that the security concept in its classical sense commonly concerns the state and military threats towards the state’s territory. Thereafter I turn to the criticism of this approach, highlighting both the process of a broadened security concept including other kinds of issues adequate in a security analysis and a widened approach regarding whose security concept, i.e. from a narrow to a broader security perspective.
Instead, it is intended to highlight that quite different implications will follow depending on which conceptual understanding of security one assumes when discussing climate change. One side of the security debate of the eighteenth century is rooted in pluralist beliefs focusing on the protection of the individual.
Environmental change includes population-induced ecological stress, land scarcity, depletion of water supplies, deforestation, desertification, air/water/land pollution, ozone depletion, climate change and natural disasters. With increasing knowledge of the negative political consequences of environmental change and the importance of an ecologically sustainable future, voices have been raised for placing the environment on the regional and global security agenda.
The negative impact of economic development on the environment, together with insufficient environmental legislation or policy and weak enforcement, inequitable access to resources, and lack of grass-roots participation in the decision-making process, is mediated by a confluence of human security factors involving population, food and energy requirements.
Strength with sustainable development was the juxtaposition between different areas where environmental degradation was related to poverty, and consequently economic development was considered the best strategy for dealing with protecting the environment and reducing poverty.
Accordingly, sustainable development became an attractive concept (for the policy community) as it bridged the conflict between economic development and environmental protection; a conflict that has characterised the modern environmental debate. The security gap was added in the aftermath of the Cold War, when environmental security became a vital position in much policy discourse.
As Barnett argues, environmental security shares two basic characteristics with the threat of global nuclear warfare: ‘both are global in reach and the effect of both could be highly devastating’.
As a conceptual structure, the UNDP proposes seven components of human security: economic, food, health, environmental, personal, community and political security
· Economic security threatened by poverty;
· Food security threatened by hunger and famine;
· Health security threatened by injury and disease;
· Environmental security threatened by pollution, environmental degradation and resource depletion; and climate change;
· Personal security threatened by various forms of violence;
· Political security threatened by political repression;
· Community security threatened by social unrest and instability.
Two main aspects of human security can be noted: first safety from ‘chronic threats such as hunger, diseases and repressions’, and second, ‘protection from sudden and harmful disruptions in the patterns of daily life’.The concept of human security includes issues that affect the daily lives of individuals and communities around the world.
An intriguing question in this context is why the concept of human security is important and in what way it could help us understand climate change.There are predictions from various scientific institutions on increases in floods, reduced rainwater that will lead to fresh water shortages. These will compromise the quality of water for domestic use, and reduce the quantities of water for industrial usage.
Diamond (2005) indicates that annual rainfall in sub-Saharan Africa will be reduced by 10% by 2050 and this will negatively affect agriculture in most parts of Africa since, 75% of agriculture in Africa depends on rainfall. Most African farmers do not have access to technology that can be used in agriculture such as irrigation equipment and machinery.
The security implications of climate change are of increasing relevance to international peace and security. Continents such as Africa, where adaptation mechanisms are weak or uncoordinated, are especially vulnerable to insecurity related to water, food, energy, and natural disasters. This will be a major challenge not only for African countries but also international partners involved in climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.
By the 1990s, climate modelling had become more sophisticated, actual pattern of change in regional climate conditions were being observed and policy makers began accepting that ways must be found to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Given that doing so would necessitate drastic changes to the use of fossil fuels, climate change quickly became an economic and energy policy issue. But in just the past few years, the language of climate change has shifted once again.
During the last decade, human security has become a central concern to many countries, institutions and social actors searching for innovative ways and means of tackling the many non-military threats to peace and security.
Human security is clearly a growing and evolving concept in the discourse of global security. Over the last decade, with increasing attention from the political and academic community, the concept of human security has developed into a major issue of debate as it transcends the traditional concept of state security and gives individual security precedence over territorial security.Therefore, in addressing human security, a comprehensive view is required of all threats to human survival and dignity, with special emphasis on the promotion of human rights, social development, and environmentally sound and sustainable development, as well as the elimination of violence, social strife, terrorism, state atrocities and genocide, and discrimination of all kinds.
Natural disasters are increasing in number and frequency, and affect most countries in Africa. Sub- Saharan Africa is one of the most severely affected areas of the world. In 2008, there were 96 disasters recorded and they included 44 floods and 9 droughts that affected 16.3 million people and incurred economic losses estimated at some 1 billion dollars.
Three of the five regions across the globe that are at risk of flooding in coastal and deltaic areas of the world are those located in Africa: North Africa, West Africa, and southern Africa. A high proportion of Africans live in coastal areas: one-quarter of the population resides within 100 kilometres of a sea coast. The Sahelian countries, which are some of the poorest in the world with the most degraded environments, are among those that are the most vulnerable to the estimated effects of climate change.
A group of eleven high-ranking, retired American admirals and generals released a report in April 2007 arguing that climate change will act as ‘threat multiplier’ that makes existing concerns such as water scarcity and food insecurity, more complex and intractable and presents a tangible threat to American national security interests (NPR, 2007)
Environmental change does not undermine human security in isolation from a broader range of social factors. These include among other things, poverty, the degree of support (or conversely discrimination) communities receive from the state, their access to economic opportunities, the effectiveness of decision making processes, and the extent of social cohesion within and surrounding vulnerable groups.
In the policy community, climate change is often described as a ‘threat multiplier, i.e. a factor exacerbating already existing problems such as water scarcity or food insecurity by making them more difficult to deal with than would be the situation without climate change. However, there is also increasing agreement that non-climate factors such as level of poverty, governance, presence of mechanisms for conflict management, regional diplomacy, etc. will largely determine whether and how climate change moves from being a conventional development challenge to a security threat.
Accordingly, one must ask to what extent climate change poses security concerns, but also what kind of security concerns that are raised: i.e, when, how and for whom?
Invest in vigorous, systematic research:
Despite numerous accounts of single events and well-developed theoretical models, we still know very little about general linkages between climate and human security. Case studies can provide some advance warning of deteriorating problems in selected areas. But global climate change policy is crucially dependent upon the early warning of events in areas that have not necessarily had such problems in the past. For this, we need better generalizable knowledge. Precise point predictions are not realistic, but general models can provide guidance as to the probability of future problems and thus help to select priority areas for remedial action.
Promote more systematic environmental accounting:
The debate so far has rightly focused on negative impacts of climate change. This is defensible, given that the prevailing opinion is that the negative effects will outweigh the positive. However, in order target countermeasures and mitigation most effectively, the policy community needs to have a more systematic assessment of negative and positive effects. How much of the loss in agricultural capacity in some areas is likely to be offset by gains in other areas? Heat waves are likely to claim additional lives in some environments, while milder climates may prevent the loss of life in very cold environments.
Assess the security effects of countermeasures to climate change:
Some of the proposed measures to restrict the greenhouse effect may also have security effects and these need to be assessed in order to find the best countermeasures overall. For instance, draconian measures to reduce CO2 emissions in high-growth developing countries like China and India might make trading-state strategies less attractive relative to strategies of territorial warfare. It would also very likely lead to a stagnation or even reversal of their economic growth, with political instability and civil unrest as probable outcomes.
Use development policies for peace building:
Any negative security implication of climate change is thought to work through economic and socio-political aspects of society. Besides, national poverty is one of the strongest correlates of civil war, and low per capita income is also strongly linked to lack of democratic governance. Until systematic research succeeds in uncovering specified and robust associations between climate change and armed conflict, investing in sustainable development in vulnerable societies may be the best instrument for promoting peace and security.
Prioritize the most vulnerable societies: There is substantial spatial overlap between today’s conflict-prone societies and the areas expected to be hit most adversely by future climate change. The East-Central parts of Africa, the Middle East, and Central and East Asia, which already suffer disproportionally from instability and violence, face a double security challenge through additional climate-imposed strains on human health and livelihood. This is likely to exacerbate the differences between those who are able to adapt to a changing environment and those who are caught in the ‘conflict trap’.
Include security issues in the next round of IPCC assessments: The natural science aspect of climate change is founded on hundreds of solid, peer-reviewed studies.
By contrast, the social implications of climate change are rather speculative and build on a limited number of sources, many of them not peer-reviewed. If the security implications of climate change are to be taken seriously in the policy debate, the IPCC should take the lead in investigating them systematically. If the IPCC decides not to make a major investigation of the issue, this task should be taken up by other international agencies.