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SustainableSecurity.org Digest: Extreme Weather, Climate Disruptions and Resource Insecurity

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Vera Evertz
5 March 2013

Extreme Storm Manhattan, NYC, September 2012. Source: Lisa Bettany via Getty Images Extreme Storm Manhattan, NYC, September 2012. Source: Lisa Bettany via Getty Images

 


2012 bore witness to a gruelling amount of extreme weather and global strain on resources. Record droughts, wildfires, heat waves, floods, snowfalls, hurricanes and typhoons were reported. When does climate disruption become a sustained security risk? How does lack of access to food, water, land or energy feed regional and global insecurity? How should governments, industries and civil society recognise and approach security risks caused by these challenges? These are the vital questions raised in recent contributions on our Sustainable Security blog.


 

2012 bore witness to a gruelling amount of extreme weather. The United States alone experienced an estimated $75 billion of damage from Hurricane Sandy in the northeast, record wildfires and drought, and one of the worst outbreaks of West Nile virus in its history, thought to have been brought on by unusual weather conditions. Devastating drought characterised the Sahel for the first half of the year, while three super typhoons hit the West Pacific and two weeks’ worth of rain submerged 50% of Manila in one day. Heat waves disrupted infrastructure in Australia and Argentina, while Moscow witnessed its worst snow in 50 years, and record flooding beset the United Kingdom, China, Bolivia, and Rwanda. Experts from the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, analysed individual events of extreme weather as results of climate change.

Resource stresses, too, were highlighted. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation announced findings that an estimated 870 million people suffered from chronic undernourishment and food insecurity from 2010-12 – 98% of these in developing countries. The ‘global land rush’ continued as Oxfam announced that foreign investors have been buying an area of land the size of London every six days. In addition, the 2012 Millennium Development Goals Report stated that 783 million people, - 11% of the global population - remain without access to an improved source of drinking water.

So when does climate disruption become a sustained security risk? How does lack of access to food, water, land or energy feed regional and global insecurity? And how should governments, industries and civil society recognise and approach security risks caused by these challenges? These are vital questions raised in recent contributions on our Sustainable Security blog.

Among many other topical subjects, our www.Sustainablesecurity.org blog has continued to provide comment and analysis on the long-term implications that the increasing impact of climate disruption, natural disasters and growing competition over resources will have on global security. Since 2009, the blog has drawn together new thinking and analysis on interconnected drivers of insecurity, such as marginalisation, global militarisation and climate change and resource conflict. 

The project website is hosted by Oxford Research Group’s (ORG) Sustainable Security programme and is a platform for promoting a better understanding of the threats to global security in the 21st century. We believe that addressing the root causes of these threats, as opposed to only dealing with their symptoms, when it is already too late, makes the prevention of conflicts possible.




Recent highlights on climate and resource insecurity from our blog:

 

Climate Change and Security Threats: Time to Call a Spade a Spade? by Ben Zala, January 2013

The devastating bushfires in Australia sharpen questions about the need for urgent action on climate change. Ben Zala, the Director of our Sustainable Security programme, asks: Is it time to abandon the debate over the pitfalls of viewing climate change through a ‘security lens’? Read more »

 

Louisiana is Sinking by Anna Alissa Hitzemann, January 2013

Most will remember the horrific pictures on the news, in 2005, when hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. Nearly 2,000 people died, thousands more were left homeless and displaced, the material destruction was catastrophic, with damages well over $100 billion. In this piece, Anna Alissa Hitzemann from our Sustainable Security programme argues that Hurricane Katrina and the sinking of coastal Louisiana stand as a reminder that we must address climate change, competition over resources and marginalisation as the root causes of conflict before it is too late. Read more »

 

Strategic Thinking in a Resource-constrained World  by Ben Zala, December 2012

Two new reports surveying the strategic trends that are likely to shape the next few decades of global politics point very clearly to the prospect of a severely resource-constrained world. Released two days apart, both the new Chatham House report on Resource Futures and the US National Intelligence Council report on Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds raise a number of important questions relating to conflict and security. Both reports deserve careful consideration in national security policy-making circles now. Read more »

 

Also on SustainableSecurity.org:

 

Sustainable Finance & Energy Security  by Phillip Bruner, November 2012

General volatility in financial markets - fuelled by irresponsible lending and trading practices, as well as evidence of market manipulation - have had an effect on oil prices. Although the specific effects of the finance sector on oil prices requires further investigation, we can already understand that a sustainable and secure future will require the development of a wider energy mix to meet rising demand. To this end, more sustainable financial systems must be developed to service the real needs of citizens.  Read more »

 

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