UN calls climate change a ‘threat multiplier’

The UN Security Council held a debate last week to discuss the impact of climate change and global warming on peace and security.

The UN Security Council – the UN’s peace and security body – has been examining the linkages between climate change and security since April 2007. But not without controversy: according to a UN press release, some Member States believe that this issue belongs with other UN agencies, such as those involved in social and economic development, or environmental protection.

Rosemary DiCarlo disagrees. In her opening remarks at the latest UN Security Council meeting in New York City last Friday, the Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs stressed that the relationship between climate-related risks and conflict “often intersects with political, social, economic and demographic factors”, making it a matter for the Security Council.

What’s more, “the risks associated with climate-related disasters do not represent a scenario of some distant future,” said DiCarlo. “They are already a reality for millions of people around the globe – and they are not going away.”

In her opinion, the UN needs to focus on three key areas to address climate-related security risks: developing a stronger analytical capacity with integrated risk assessment frameworks; collecting a strong evidence base to replicate good practices on climate risk prevention and management in the field; and building and reinforcing partnerships to leverage existing capacities within and outside the UN system.

Calling climate change a “threat multiplier”, DiCarlo insisted that the UN must act now to protect the marginalised and vulnerable in particular, adding that businesses and armies have long recognised the need to prepare for climate-related risks.

Also present at Friday’s meeting was Pavel Kabat, Chief Scientist at the UN World Metereological Organization, who briefed the Security Council members on climate and extreme weather issues.

“Climate change has a multitude of security impacts – rolling back the gains in nutrition and access to food; heightening the risk of wildfires and exacerbating air quality challenges; increasing the potential for water conflict; leading to more internal displacement and migration,” he said.

“It is increasingly regarded as a national security threat.”

Image credit: Curt Carnemark/World Bank via Flickr

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