Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Debate About the Relevence of 'Climate Security'

Keith Kloor has an interesting thread of debate going on his 'Collide-a-Scape' blog about climate security, which he started with interviews with Cleo Paskal and Geoff Dabelko.  Before these interviews, Keith says:
In reality, the linkages between climate change, energy and national security are complex. Remember that impenetrable counterinsurgency powerpoint slide that recently bounced around the blogosphere? I bet there’s an equivalent one somewhere under lock and key that has a geopolitical diagram of the climate security threat.
Keith: just for you, I pulled up a slide from a Power Point Presentation that David Robson, a special advisor on energy and climate to the Scottish Government, showed at an IISS workshop on the Impacts of Climate Change on Food Security.  You can see it at the left.

Of course, I also should suggest that Keith gets in touch with the IISS' Research Fellow on Environmental Security, Jeff Mazo, who's new book "Climate Conflict" was just released. He has a full chapter about Darfur, about which there has been significant argument about whether it should be called a 'climate war' as Ban Ki-Moon has said it was. (buy the book!)

The problem we face is that nuance doesn't sell books, nuance certainly doesn't get you on TV, and politicians and their staff don't have time to get into nuanced arguements. I've been approached many times by various Senator's staff saying 'my boss is very interested in using the climate-security argument'. They want to use it because the concept of 'security' brings images of soldiers - the most respected establishment in America - and it allows you to paint an enemy - after all we wouldn't have gone to the moon if the Soviets hadn't put Sputnik up first.

Unfortunately, this leads to some distorted arguments. For example, the least nuanced ad (embedded after the jump) I've seen on this issue -- saying that the US' failure to pass climate legislation = material support for Iran -- was rejected by Fox News because it was "Too Confusing". This is the political and media world we live in, and you can't ignore it. So long as politicians, the public, and the media live in the short-term, notions like climate security are difficult to get readers (as Geoff Dabelko says in the comments on Collide-A-Scape) unless you make some strong and difficult to prove linkages.

Personally, I think the political and economic argument that was advanced in the Stern Review applies to the climate security argument best: relatively small, prudent actions now can act as insurance against the threat of potentially large and destabalising consequences -- whether to security or to the economy -- in the future.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, that slide is a keeper. Thanks, Andrew, for engaging in the discussion over at my site.