Journal Article

IDS Bulletin Vol. 35 Nos. 3

Climate Change and Security

Published on 1 July 2004

The effects of climate change are already so apparent that those who doubt the existence of the phenomenon are now in a minority. There may still be controversy over the cause or causes, but evidence of substantial change is building at a remarkable rate.

In Britain, winters are shorter and agricultural patterns are changing. There are now commercial vineyards in the north of England and gardeners experiment with subtropical exotics across much of the country. In the subarctic regions such as Alaska, changes are especially obvious as large areas of permafrost begin to melt and ice-free sea passages increase each winter, and even in the tropics, Mount Kenya and Mount Kilimanjaro now look likely to lose their snowfields. This article analyses why the implications of these changes have, for the most part, not been seen as a security issue, or even ones that have much connection with development. The article suggests this is due to the fact that the first decade of climate science focused on likely changes in the northern hemisphere rather than the tropics and the modelling was based on a view of climate change as a slow and steadily advancing phenomenon with potential benefits for the northern hemisphere and limited impacts in the tropics. More recent research has changed this picture: substantial impacts are expected in the tropics and there is greater awareness that climate change may produce abrupt changes and shocks as well as gradual changes. To the extent these occur in fragile societies with limited coping capacity, both could trigger increased crime, social unrest and pressure for large-scale migration. These have implications for global security that are not well understood providing an additional reason why climate change has low priority on international and national political agendas.

Related Content

This article comes from theĀ IDS Bulletin 35.3 (2004) Climate Change and Security

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Rogers, P. (2004) Climate Change and Security. IDS Bulletin 35(3): 98-101

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Paul Rogers

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Rogers, Paul
IDS Bulletin, volume 35, issue 3