The CDA Institute organized a special Workshop on “Climate Change, Security, and Defence” in Ottawa on 16 September 2015. We are pleased to present the welcome remarks by Ferry de Kerckhove here on our Blog: The Forum. The full summary, written by Analyst Ariel Shapiro, is available as a CDA Institute Analysis.
Ladies and gentleman, Mesdames Messieurs. Quel plaisir de lancer la discussion. This is not an easy topic and yes-sayers and nay-sayers on the impact of climate change have been battling to various degrees with many vantages points and with an innate ability to contradict one another with equal passion and solid data. A great friend of mine reminded me of the global warming in the Middle Ages and the role of nature in producing broad cycles of changes in world temperatures in ancient and modern times. No one disputes this but then, how about today?
Contrasting such legitimate claims about the past, the body of scientific evidence seems to have confirmed that climate change is a reality, based on global sources, with an average growth in world average temperature of .7o in 50 years. I think what divides many people in this debate is the rhythm at which this trend will accelerate or not over the next 50 years.
Our task today, irrespective of the exact outcome 50 years down the road, is to assess the security risks or threats stemming from climate change. Uncertainties are no excuse for this kind of thinking, particularly on food, water and energy. Question number one as I see it is whether we are talking about a strategic issue or challenge, or not.
Stemming from this is the next question: are the consequences of climate change strictly of a physical nature or do they mutate into political and social issues, namely an increase in conflicts – I think of Darfur – migrations and similar events. Are we at a stage where we can talk about a “defence strategy to mitigate the impacts of climate change?”
Can we at the present state of research argue that an increase in X degrees of temperature will provoke an X increase in regional or global conflict? And what are the defence mechanisms required to face these – conventional or completely new?
Is there a defence mechanism or policy to handle the impact of ice melting, climbing ocean water level, loss of arable land, drought, floods, desertification, spreading diseases, and tornadoes – or their consequences – reduced access to food or insecurity thereof, social tension, diminished access to water, increased poverty, and insecurity? Clearly the flow of migrants coming to Europe has little to do with climate change and we should not confuse man-made disasters at which we are so good and that wrought upon us by Mother Nature.
It behooves us to be clear about what we are talking about. Yet, even from a very static view we cannot but underscore that the incremental nature of climate change has an impact upon existing stressful situations, locally, regionally, and globally. That is probably where we need to adapt our security and defence postures and policies – or is it too early to talk about “defence posture”? Did Egypt not nearly go to war against Ethiopia on Nile waters management? Might we have to recognize that the fact of globalization – globalization is a fact, not a purpose – does not make it any easier to think through those issues even if it should unite people in looking for solutions both in the management of our environment and of human nature?
Voltaire used to say “if you wish to converse with me, let us first agree on a terminology.” I think this panel has its work cut-out and I give the floor first to Andreas Kraemer.