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Climate change and security

Over recent years, the question of the relationship between environmental change and security (a prominent debate in the late 1980s-early 1990s) has re-emerged in both academic and political debate. Much of this has been due to increasing awareness of- and concerns about- global climate change.

The status of climate change as a security issue is, however, not self-evident. Certainly we have seen an increasing willingness politically to define and approach it as such, evident in a 2007 meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the implications of climate change for international peace and security. We have also seen prominent political figures (from the UN Secretary-General to the French President) link climate change to conflict in Darfur, for example (see also UNEP 2007). And there is little doubt- based on the findings of the IPCC- that climate change has the capacity to undermine the long-term sustainability of life on the planet. But does the threat to long-term survival make climate change a security issue? If so for whom: states, people, future generations, the biosphere? And what implications does approaching climate change as a security issue have, analytically or in practice? At its core, these are questions about what security means, what security does, and how a complex and multi-dimensional issue such as climate change (with its relationship to economic activity, cultural and social practices, institutional arrangements, among other things) challenges the way we think about security. If security is particularly politically enabling- allowing the prioritisation of issues or the suspension of normal rules of the political game- then such questions are clearly crucial for the way climate change is conceptualised and addressed.

 

A workshop around the theme of the relationship between climate change and security is planned for 24 April 2009. More information and details of how to register are now available. In addition to various staff members in the University, several external participants will be invited with expertise in this area, whose background ranges from geography to political science The workshop will be of interest for various people from across the University and we would certainly welcome the participation of any member of staff in the University who has an interest in the questions raised, or in the general question of the relationship between climate change and security.

 

Academics involved: Dr Matt McDonald, Dr Ed Page, Dr Rita Floyd (Politics and International Studies)