Thursday, July 21, 2011

Climate Change, Security, and Small Island States

On July 20, the UN Security Council held an open debate on the subject of climate change and risks to international security. The topic was introduced by Germany, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council. Following on from earlier efforts to raise the issue of climate security within the Council, Germany sought to begin an ongoing dialogue on the security risks posed by climate change, in particular the threat of sea-level rise and dangers to food supplies. Discussion also focused on the possible future need for UN "green helmets" for deployment to violent conflicts around the world caused or exacerbated ("threat-multiplied") by climate change.

Germany was strongly supported by the Pacific Small Island Developing States grouping. The chairman of this organization, President Marcus Stephen of Nauru, urged in a July 18 op-ed in the New York Times that "the Security Council should join the General Assembly in recognizing climate change as a threat to international peace and security. It is a threat as great as nuclear proliferation or global terrorism." Yet he went on to write that "Negotiations to reduce emissions should remain the primary forum for reaching an international agreement." Climate engineering was not mentioned as a potential strategy.

The existential threat faced by small island states as a result of global warming and rising seas is more than sufficient reason to explore geoengineering as an additional climate policy option. Emissions mitigation, even if deep cuts were somehow achieved over the next decades, will not be enough to prevent the demise of low-lying island states such as Nauru, the Marshall Islands, and the Maldives. In the absence of climate intervention, such countries will cease to exist in any meaningful sense. When rising sea levels are treated as a matter of war and peace before the UN Security Council, national leaders compare their climate predicaments to nuclear proliferation and terrorism, and the future existence of entire nation-states is in doubt, surely it is appropriate to consider all possible solutions. Small island developing states, and representative organizations such as the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), ought to be at the forefront of diplomatic efforts to jump-start research into geoengineering.

1 comment:

  1. I hope that negotiations to reduce emissions will have some positive and global effect on the enviroment soon...