While India and Pakistan at least have the Indus Water Treaty that's survived multiple wars, the collapse in talks over any legal agreement among all ten countries in the Nile basin underscores how difficult water negotiating agreements already are. Climate change will make it even more difficult to negotiate water treaties that prevent conflict when river flow decreases.
Climate change in recent years has reduced rainfall, leading to lower water flows in the Nile and jeopardizing hydraulic projects in several states.
Egypt and neighboring Sudan are the Nile's largest consumers. Egypt, which lies at the end of the river as it flows into the Mediterranean, does not contribute any water to the Nile system.
But it has the largest population -- 80.24 million -- and the greatest military power among the riparian states and thus the highest demand for water. For Cairo, safeguarding the Nile water is a strategic objective.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Something that is very important to take a look at: what kind of fuel will the ship be using for the passage? This is important because of the 'black carbon' emissions (essentially unburned fuel) that comes from burning the low-grade bunker fuel that is typically used by freighters. Black Carbon is a major cause of ice melt, and if other ships start making this journey, they could dramatically hasten the melting of arctic ice. When ice comes into contact with black carbon, it becomes much more likely for it to melt: instead of reflecting the heat from the sun, as it would when white, it will absorb more of the heat, and melt faster. This is a dangerous feedback loop.
One of the things that the Arctic Council is looking at is a ban on the usage of bunker fuels in the High North. I wonder what kind of fuel the Beluga Fraternity is burning for this trip?
Monday, July 27, 2009
By the year 2050, about 75 million people could be forced to leave their homes in the Asia-Pacific region due to climate change. Pacific island governments are already tackling climate change-related relocation and resettlement. Given the significant implications of these population movements for our region, it is vital that
In the event of sudden climate change, such as floods and storms, a mass influx of refugees could destabilize neighboring countries. Conflict over climate stresses can occur if neighboring communities don't understand the causes of migration and if existing institutions aren't prepared for climate induced migration. Oxfam's report has good recommendations for policy makers to begin laying the groundwork for dramatic changes in future migrations due to climate change.
Governments must also work with local community leaders to educate citizens about climate refugees in areas where mass migrations are likely to occur. Conflict may not originate from states in these situations but from native citizens responding to an influx of migrants especially if neighboring states are already divided by ethnic or religious divides. International human rights law, while insufficient by itself to prevent conflict, must begin to recognize climate induced migrants as a separate category of people where their claims to migrate can be judged by international law. Otherwise, without any sort of legal recognition, people fleeing from environmental catastrophe have very limited legal claims under international law.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
In South Asia, India’s rivers are not only vital to its agriculture, but central to its religious practice. Pakistan, for its part, is heavily dependent on irrigated farming to avoid famine. Both share the water that flows from the Himalayas and which could disappear completely by 2035. At a moment when the American Government is working to decrease tensions and preparing to invest billions to strengthen Pakistan’s capacity to deliver for its people, climate change is working in the opposite direction.
The nexus of China, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan is going to become the critical area where climate change, if unmitigated, will have extremely destabilizing effects. The US's recent announcement of an additional $165 million in aid to Pakistan represents a longer term commitment to a region where climate change will exacerbate tensions by increasing resource scarcity. Sharon Burke, from the Center for a New American Security, mentioned at yesterday's senate hearing that strategies for fighting extremism via economic development and strategies for adapting to climate change are complementary. States must provide their citizens with at least minimum levels of economic development to maintain their legitimacy to prevent the rise of violent extremism. Pakistan is a clear example where millions of refugees and the presence of the Taliban undermine the government's stability.
China and India are emerging economies with billions of people aspiring to develop and urbanize. Bangladesh is routinely mentioned as one of the states most vulnerable to climate change. The region encompassing China, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh contains around 2.8 billion people. That region has the most to gain and the most to lose depending on the course of international action on climate change.
Scientific American also has an article outlining how melting permafrost could weaken the foundation of the 4$ billion dollar China-Tibet railway. Glaciers on the Tibetan plateau are among the fastest melting. Similarly, gas pipelines and other types of infrastructure built over permafrost could face severe design challenges as the ground beneath melts.
At the hearing, all of the testifiers emphasized that climate change's complex and interconnected impacts make it more paramount to examining its security implications. Even the outgoing head of NATO, Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, said yesterday "You cannot deny that the melting of the polar cap, the ice cap on the North Pole is having a lot of security consequences".
Monday, July 20, 2009
Back in May, the CNA published a report calling for the military to adopt energy security and climate change policies. At the report's release event, Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn argued for the Pentagon to adopt renewable energy policies because they could change the culture of government and of society. The headline of today's paper is "Riding a Wave of Culture Change, DOD Strives to Trim Energy Demand". This is a great example of institutions understanding climate change and energy as new security developments that demand corresponding changes in policy. Dealing with climate change not only requires innovation but also new ways of thinking about the costs of inaction, such as adopting a 'carbon bootprint'.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Africa gives off less greenhouse gas than any other part of the world, but it is the most threatened by climate change. A warming planet will spread disease, shrink water resources, and deplete crops, creating conditions that produce more famine and more conflict.The conditions for conflict, have already started to occur. The BBC reported that 70,000 people were displaced in Ethiopia because of a conflict between the Oromo ethnic group and the Somalis over the location of a drill for water. Qeerransoo Biyyaa, an Oromo journalist, praises Obama's speech for identifying the link between climate and conflict. He argues that, "symbols and images of the harsh effects of climate change should rather be diversified than just be restricted to cultures that have polar bears and ice." Policymakers and people being affected by climate change are finally beginning to understand how it creates the conditions for conflict. The harder part will be to prevent those conditions from getting worse.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
bitterness over Iraq’s water threatens to be a source of tension for months or even years to come between Iraq and its neighbors...Along the river, there is no shortage of resentment at the Turks and Syrians. But there is also resentment at the Americans, Kurds, Iranians and the Iraqi government, all of whom are blamed. Scarcity makes foes of everyone. The Sunni areas upriver seem to have enough water, Mr. Joda observed, a comment heavy with implication.Water scarcity weakens Iraq's external sovereignty because it's dependent on Turkish and Syrian dams for the Euphrates' water level. Iraq's internal stability is hampered by rising tensions over water between the historically hostile sectarian groups. Even if Iraq's water scarcity actually results from poor government management as the article suggests, the mere perception that particular groups, such as the Sunni's, have unequal access to water can still fuel conflict and instability. Reduced river flow hurts Iraq's agriculture yields too with wheat/barley production declining 51%. Now, the scenario laid out in March by the International Institute for Sustainable Development's report on climate change and the Middle East seems all the more dangerous. It states:
[Perceptions of water scarcity] could increase the chances of the ‘pre-emptive’ seizure of resources. This could be in any number of different directions: by Israeli settlers in the oPt [occupied Palestinian territory], between Turkey, Syria and Iraq over the division of the Euphrates and so on. In a sense climate change conflict could become a self-fulfilling prophecy—the expectation of coming environmental wars might imply that the way to deal with shrinking resources is to increase military control over them.Political leaders must recognize how climate contributes to instability in the already vulnerable regions of the world.
She's correct in saying "I doubt the wisdom of assuming that eight or 10 politicians will ever solve this problem during a meeting in a conference center."
She is also correct to identify that the problem we should be working to solve is finding a way to make renewable power most cost effective than fossil fuels. The collapse in energy prices over the last year has significantly undercut the renewable power industry – and that has only been partially offset by stimulus funding. She also correctly identifies that the solution to that problem is for politicians to increase the relative cost of fossil fuels; she suggests a tax, but a cap and trade is another method.
However, she overlooks the utility of an international treaty in creating the conditions for politicians to increase the price of fossil fuels. It is very difficult for any politician to vote to raise the price of fuel or electricity. That is part of the reason why ‘cap and trade’ has gotten more political traction: though it is economically equivalent to a carbon tax, it more effectively hides the price increases from the voter. Even modeled as a cap and trade, however, legislation is the Senate faces a very stiff test. Here is where I think an internationally negotiated, binding treaty could be effective: it will give political cover to politicians who would like to vote for it, know that it is important for the country and the world, but are afraid of their constituents (who can be very short-sighted). We often see such a sentiment in international trade policy. The fact that the WTO exists gives political cover to politicians who would otherwise be pushed to support protectionist measures. For instance, the Byrd Amendment (which gave the proceeds of anti-dumping tariffs to the victim of the dumping) was only repealed in 2006 because it had been ruled WTO-illegal. An international agreement give politicians the cover (and someone to blame) to vote for an unpopular – but necessary – agenda.
Also, I think she's wrong about any treaty being unenforceable. Most nations will attempt meet their treaty obligations, because they believe it is in collective interest. Those that don’t will be punished and ostracized. Thomas Schelling explains it better than I can on the Atlantic, here.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Yesterday’s New York Times published an op-ed by Paul Hohnen and Jeremy Leggett arguing for framing climate change as a security issue, stating:
“It [Copenhagen] must be seen as a global security conference about the survival
of life on earth as we know it. It would help negotiators get a sense of the
stakes if they likened the challenge to that of stopping the impact of an
incoming asteroid or deterring an alien invasion.”
Also, The Independent previewed a soon to be released report from the Millennium Project on climate changing, warning that:
“The scale of political, financial, humanitarian, and security implications of
the effects of climate change are unprecedented, the causes are generally known,
and the consequences can largely be forecast. Nevertheless, coordination for
effective and adequate action is yet incipient, and environmental problems
worsen faster than response or preventive policies are being adopted.”
Media coverage of climate change is part of the problem. There is a danger that an agreement coming out of Copenhagen may not be enough to prevent catastrophic consequences. The international community made progress after the recent G8 and MEF summits but developed and developing nations remain far apart on emission targets, baseline years, and adaptation financing.
So long as climate change is treated as merely an economic or environmental concern, policy makers will think about climate change in zero-sum terms, which stalls serious action. By recognizing climate change’s security dimensions, these begin to make the case for action from policymakers.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Few places show this dynamic better than Russia. Climate change threatens Russia's energy security. In 2007, a report done by the United Nations Environment Program on Russia outlined the impact scenario:
Rising temperatures will push the permafrost boundary further north and deepen the surface melt. This may have big implications for future oil, gas and other investment projects...Destabilised, shifting permafrost conditions release greenhouse gases and could lead to flooding that will not only affect coastal and river bank human settlements, but will also require more expensive underpinning of buildings, refineries and other infrastructure such as the Baikal Amur railway and the planned East Siberia-Pacific export oil pipeline. This may increase the costs of pipeline construction because extensive trenching may be needed to combat the effects of coastal instability and erosion, especially that caused by permafrost melting. (italics mine)
Russia's most important industry, petroleum, relies on pipelines built on permafrost that's rapidly melting due to climate change. Developing resilient energy infrastructure is vital for energy security in the context of climate change.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
The countries at the G-8 summit in
…negotiators for the world’s 17 leading polluters dropped a proposal to cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by midcentury, and emissions from the most advanced economies by 80 percent. But both the G-8 and the developing countries agreed to set a goal of stopping world temperatures from rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius from preindustrial levels.
However, negotiators did agree to limit temperature rises to fewer than 2 degrees Celsius. Bradford Plumber, at The New Republic has more. In addition to the impasse on emission targets, the negotiators failed to agree on what the baseline year for calculating emission targets is. The G-8 summit document states:
As part of this, we also support a goal of developed countries reducing emissions of greenhouse gases in aggregate by 80% or more by 2050 compared to 1990 or more recent years. Consistent with this ambitious long-term objective, we will undertake robust aggregate and individual mid-term reductions, taking into account that baselines may vary and that efforts need to be comparable. (italics mine)
By leaving open the option for the baseline year to be 1990 or any year after, then countries could cut their emissions percentage based off a year where their economies were strong.
Climate change also increases wind speeds in the Antarctic which according to the New Scientist article, drives warm water to slowly melt glaciers on the shore from below. Scientists are beginning to better understand the non-linear factors of climate change. Higher temperatures not only raise sea level but also the rate of sea level increases. Hopefully, policymakers at the G-8 summit will understand the urgency.
Meltwater fills any crevasses, widening and deepening the cracks until they reach all the way down to the base of the ice. This can have a dramatic effect on floating ice shelves. "Essentially, you are chopping up an ice shelf into a bunch of tall thin icebergs, like dominoes standing on their ends," says Bindschadler. "And they are not very stable standing that way." They fall over, and push their neighbours out to sea.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Monday, July 6, 2009
Reduced crop yields become all the more grave when combined with large population growth and low economic prospects, which threaten disaster for many countries. One study combines all these factors to predict which African countries will be hardest hit by climate change in the future: it puts Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Tanzania at the top of that list by 2030.Mozambique experienced food riots in 2008. There's been recent and persistent conflict in the DRC for years. Climate change undermines stability by magnifying demographic and economic factors in developing countries.
While much international attention's been devoted to emissions mitigation, adaptation financing is gaining a more prominent role in policy debates but the amount of financing needed differs. The World Bank estimated $5-10 billion annually. Gordon Brown proposed $100 billion annually by 2020. In today's report, Oxfam wants $150 billion immediately. The UN believes $200 billion annually would be needed by 2030. The Major Economies Forum meeting last month had a draft text suggesting a $400 million baseline amount.
Ultimately, postponing serious mitigation and adaptation efforts now just increases the costs in the future as rising temperatures permanently leave lands infertile prompting mass migrations as areas become wholly unlivable. Using adaptation as part of a bigger development strategy can prevent climate induced conflicts from arising at a much cheaper cost.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
“This topic will not be included in the agenda of co-operation between Russia and Nato ... there is nothing for them to do there," (hyperlink mine).
So Russia views its Arctic claims as non-NATO related even though it's trying to claim vast amounts of territory that Norway contests. The article then quotes Artur Chilingarov, the Russian government's representative to the Arctic who stated,
"Look at the map. Who is there near by? All our northern regions are in or come out into the Arctic. All that is in our northern, Arctic regions. It is our Russia."
'It's our Russia.' Chilingarov's claim is not based on economic considerations but on a perception of Russian identity. An excellent report released this month from The Arctic Climate Change and Security Policy Conference last December indicates:
Russia’s activities could be disruptive to the region if its recent focus on politics and territorial claims retains priority over increased attention to science and international cooperation. The driving factors may be Russian prestige, identity, and image, which converge on borders and territorial claims. For Russia, sovereignty in the Arctic is a “hard” security issue. Russian military interests center on the Kola Peninsula, home to the Russian nuclear submarine fleet, and on rebuilding the Northern fleet." (italics mine)
A melting arctic would allow easier access to resources but it would also provide an opportunity for Russia to regain its status as a great power. To that end, Russia's already manipulated its control over Europe's energy supplies and seeks to do so for the future.
Ironically, Russia's way of adapting to climate change is not to modernize its economy toward renewables and efficiency but to increase its dominance in fossil fuel exports by expanding its supplies in the Arctic. This 'adaptation' explains Russia's reluctance to seriously cut emissions and explains why it benefiting from climate change could come at a cost to the international community. The World Wildlife Fund's report on the climate change policies of the G8 countries has this to say about Russia:
No comprehensive national plan; ratified Kyoto Protocol very late and only under pressure; not very active in the preparatory negotiations, and often an obstacle at the last minuteOn the other hand, rising temperatures would wreck much of Russia's infrastructure built on melting permafrost. Securing the Arctic won't adapt to that consequence.
"Today there can be no support for agriculture or water management in developing countries, for example, which is not also adaptation expenditure. Giving the rural poor access to renewable energy is both climate mitigation and poverty reduction...
So all official development assistance will now have to be climate-proofed to ensure that it properly takes into account the impacts of climate change...
So today I propose we take a working figure for this purpose of around $100 billion per annum by 2020."
Brown framed this fund as part of global efforts to combat poverty and reach millennium development goals. Not surprisingly,
While mitigating carbon emissions is critical, making sure vulnerable and developing countries - often the same - can adapt to the climate scenarios that will already happen and could get worse is just as important. Brown's speech represents a major proposal by a developed nation towards adaptation measures in the developing world, that will pre-empt climate change's destabilizing effects. The draft proposal by the Major Economies Forum suggested an initial $400 million fast start towards an adaptation fund.
million fast start towards an adaptation fund.