Global Environmental Change and Human Security

Research is being done at environmental schools at colleges and universities around the world on the topic of environmental change and how it impacts human security.  This research broadens the traditional concept of security into one that accounts for how people are affected when their environment changes.

Most people think of security as how well you can protect something or defend it.  That’s generally true, but it’s only one way to look at it.  Another way is to include larger communities in the discussion.  For example, the people in a country are generally safer if the country is not at war with another country.

The concept of human security within the context of environmental change is a topic that spans many different areas of research.  It requires collaboration between experts in climate change, economics, politics and societal behavior.  It is an incredibly challenging task to determine how the polar ice caps melting could impact resources that are necessary for survival in various parts of the world.  Add in the impact that politics has on trying to keep those ice caps from melting and it gets even more complicated very quickly.

If more research is focused on environmental change and how it affects human security, we can make better decisions and be more prepared for the challenges of tomorrow.

Will global warming cause more wars?

An article presented to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in 2009 determined that more wars will occur in Africa if global temperatures continue to rise.

The article was a collaboration between Marshall B. Burke and several other researchers.  The presentation included results from the University of California Berkeley, New York University, Harvard University and Stanford University.  It brought together expertise in the fields of economics, politics, applied sciences, and the environment.

Burke claims that the effort was the first comprehensive attempt to examine what impact climate change could have on armed conflict in sub-Saharan Africa (Africa).  His team came to the alarming conclusion that almost 400,000 more people would die as a result of armed conflict in Africa by 2030 if global warming continues.

Burke arrived at this conclusion by analyzing how frequently civil war occurred in Africa during periods where global temperatures increased.  He compared this with how often armed conflict arose during periods where temperatures were more stable.  Assuming that everything else was constant, he found that there were more civil wars during periods where global warming occurred.

This seems to makes sense given that resources that are critical for survival will become scarcer if the temperatures in Africa increase.  The result would be that those resources would become more valuable and the people that need them would be far more willing to fight for them.

It’s hard to know if Burke’s findings will hold up over time.  The data we have available for changes in global temperatures spans a limited period of history and there are many other potential factors that could have led to more wars in Africa during the times he analyzed.

At the very least, the report is a great attempt to quantify the impact of climate change.  It makes it far easier for people to understand.  Hopefully, that understanding will cause more people to want to stop global warming.

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