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This page will host links and postings to important texts discussing the interconnections in the field of earth sciences and security. We welcome any additions to our list or new articles you come across in your own work.

Online Publications


NATO Security Science Forum on Environmental Security

NATO HQ, Brussels, 12 March 2008

High level experts discuss environmental security

The second NATO Science Forum on Environmental Security took place on 12 March 2008 at NATO in Brussels. The Forum brought together around 20 key speakers and over 120 environmental security experts from NATO member, Partner and Mediterranean Dialogue countries to address the linkages between the environment and security and examine current initiatives underway to help resolve problems and mitigate conflict.

The Security Implications of Climate Change

John Podesta and Peter Ogden, The Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The Washington Quarterly, 31:1 pp. 115-138.

Excerpt: In terms of the effects of climate change, the future is becoming increasingly clear. The expected greenhouse gas emissions scenario developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) portends a world in which people and nations will be threatened by massive food and water shortages, devastating natural disasters, and deadly disease outbreaks. No foreseeable political or technological solution will enable us to avert many of these climatic impacts even if, for instance, the United States were in the near future to enter into an international carbon cap-and-trade system. Meanwhile, a technological breakthrough that would lead to a decisive, near-term reduction in the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere remains far away.

(NEW) Human Development Report 2007/2008

See Full Report 
Fighting climate change: Human solidarity in a divided world

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Climate change is the defining human development challenge of the 21st Century. Failure to respond to that challenge will stall and then reverse international efforts to reduce poverty. The poorest countries and most vulnerable citizens will suffer the earliest and most damaging setbacks, even though they have contributed least to the problem. Looking to the future, no country however wealthy or powerful will be immune to the impact of global warming.
The Human Development Report 2007/2008 shows that climate change is not just a future scenario. Increased exposure to droughts, floods and storms is already destroying opportunity and reinforcing inequality. Meanwhile, there is now overwhelming scientific evidence that the world is moving towards the point at which irreversible ecological catastrophe becomes unavoidable. Business-as-usual climate change points in a clear direction: unprecedented reversal in human development in our lifetime, and acute risks for our children and their grandchildren.
There is a window of opportunity for avoiding the most damaging climate change impacts, but that window is closing: the world has less than a decade to change course. Actions taken or not taken in the years ahead will have a profound bearing on the future course of human development. The world lacks neither the financial resources nor the technological capabilities to act. What is missing is a sense of urgency, human solidarity and collective interest.

As the Human Development Report 2007/2008 argues, climate change poses challenges at many levels. In a divided but ecologically interdependent world, it challenges all people to reflect upon how we manage the environment of the one thing that we share in common: planet Earth. It challenges us to reflect on social justice and human rights across countries and generations. It challenges political leaders and people in rich nations to acknowledge their historic responsibility for the problem, and to initiate deep and early cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Above all, it challenges the entire human community to undertake prompt and strong collective action based on shared values and a shared vision.

Climate Change and Conflict

Nordas, Ragnhild and Nils Petter Gleditsch (August 2007) Political Geography, V. 26, Issue 6 pp 627-638

Abstract: The prospect of human-induced climate change encourages drastic neomalthusian scenarios. A number of claims about the conflict-inducing effects of climate change have surfaced in the public debate in recent years. Climate change has so many potential consequences for the physical environment that we could expect a large number of possible paths to conflict. However, the causal chains suggested in the literature have so far rarely been substantiated with reliable evidence. Given the combined uncertainties of climate and conflict research, the gaps in our knowledge about the consequences of climate change for conflict and security appear daunting. Social scientists are now beginning to respond to this challenge. We present some of the problems and opportunities in this line of research, summarize the contributions in this special issue, and discuss how the security concerns of climate change can be investigated more systematically.

New Security Beat

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Environmental Security and Change Program
Summary: A blog discussing problems that are linked to civil conflicts and war: problems that are today's new security threats. Issues include population growth, water scarcity, degraded ecosystems, the resource curse, disease, forced migration.

Beyond Disasters: Creating Opportunities for Peace

WorldWatch Institute Report
By Michael Renner and Zoe Chafe

Summary: In 2005, the Worldwatch Institute launched a project addressing the intersections between natural disasters, environmental degradation, conflict, and peacemaking. Researchers Michael Renner and Zoë Chafe co-authored a chapter on disasters in Worldwatch's State of the World 2006 report, Zoë contributed a chapter on urban disaster risk to State of the World 2007, and both researchers examined these connections in a range of additional articles, op-eds, publications, and online stories. In June 2007, they released a new Worldwatch Report, Beyond Disasters: Creating Opportunities for Peace, at events in New York and Washington, D.C.

Trade, Aid, and Security: An Agenda for Peace and Development

Edited by Oli Brown, Mark Halle, Sonia Peña Moreno and Sebastian Winkler

Summary: "This report introduces the linkages among trade, aid and security, and exposes how inappropriate or misused trade and aid policies can and do undermine security and contribute to violence and the disintegration of nation states. On a practical level, they demonstrate how six key areas of trade and aid policy can be used to help forge stability and security, reduce the likelihood of armed conflict, and assist economic and political recovery in our war-torn world."

Lebanon Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment

On 5 August 2006, the Executive Director of UNEP received a request from the Lebanese Ministry of Environment to undertake a Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment in Lebanon.

Consequently, the Post-Conflict Branch, in cooperation with the Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit, the Regional Office for West Asia, UNDP-Beirut, IUCN and local counterparts, is currently conducting a Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment of Lebanon. The fieldwork took place between 30 September and 21 October 2006.

During the field phase international experts, accompanied by members of staff of the Ministry of Environment, visited more than 40 sites and investigated issues relating to solid and hazardous waste, industrial contamination, coastal & marine contamination, water resources, asbestos and weapons used. Samples were collected and are now being analysed by laboratories in the UK, Sweden and Switzerland.

The bombing of the Jiyeh Power Plant resulted in the spillage of an estimated 10-15 000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil into the ocean. UNEP's marine biologists inspected the coastline from Tyre to Tripoli to assess the degree of oil contamination and surveyed the seabed to a depth of 25m at approximately 25 sites. UNEP experts also investigated various sites for potential chemical contamination of soil and water sources as a result of the bombing of industrial facilities.

Sudan Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment

United Nations Environment Programme, June 2007

Excerpt: "With a view to gaining a comprehensive understanding of the current state of the environment in Sudan and catalysing action to address the country's key environmental problems, the Government of National Unity (GONU) and Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) requested the United
Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to conduct a post-conflict environmental assessment of Sudan. The goal of the UNEP assessment was accordingly to develop a solid technical basis for medium-term corrective action in the field of environmental protection and sustainable development."

For Indepth discussion of the event, see the Woodrow Wilson Center's Environmental Change and Security Program Event Webcast and summary:

Trends and triggers: Climate, climate change and civil conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa

Cullen S. Hendrix and Sarah M. Glaser (August 2007) Political Geography, V. 26, Issue 6 pp 695-715

Abstract: The conventional discourse relating climate change to conflict focuses on long term trends in temperature and precipitation that define ecosystems and their subsequent impact on access to renewable resources. Because these changes occur over long time periods they may not capture the proximate factors that trigger conflict. We estimate the impact of both long term trends in climate and short term climatic triggers on civil conflict onset in Sub-Saharan Africa. We find that both operationalizations have a significant impact. Climates more suitable for Eurasian agriculture are associated with a decreased likelihood of conflict, while freshwater resources per capita are positively associated with the likelihood of conflict. Moreover, positive changes in rainfall are associated with a decreased likelihood of conflict in the following year. We also assess the outlook for the future by analyzing simulated changes in precipitation means and variability over the period 2000-2099. We find few statistically significant, positive trends in our measure of interannual variability, suggesting that it is unlikely to be affected dramatically by expected changes in climate.

Darfur: Relief in a Vulnerable Environment


Excerpt: The relief effort in Darfur takes place in a context of greater environmental vulnerability than many of the larger relief operations of recent years such as the Balkans, Liberia, Sierra Leone and South Sudan. Access to environmental resources is central to the chronic conflict between pastoralists and farmers and therefore an important component of the Darfur crisis. Environmental resources are under considerable stress in Darfur as a result of the concentration of demand caused by the massive population displacement. Increased demand over a prolonged period of time is not only undermining the resource base essential for Darfur's recovery, but also constraining the impact of the relief programme, particularly with regard to protection.

Climate Change, Migration, and Conflict

Nils Petter Gleditsch, Ragnhild Nordås & Idean Salehyan: Climate Change, Migration, and Conflict. Challenges for Human and International Security. New York: Interna-tional Peace Academy, 2007

Excerpt: The link between climate change, migration, and conflict remains conjectural. Because it is difficult to isolate different causes of migration, it is unclear whether specific population movements have occurred as a direct result of environmental stresses rooted in climatic shift.There is good evidence linking conflict and emigration in sending areas and immigration and conflict in receiving areas. On the other hand, there is a lack of consensus and systematic data on the effects of climate change on migration and on the effect of climate-induced migration on conflict. Clearly identifying the sources of environmentally induced migration and environmental conflicts is a difficult, yet much needed endeavor.