Category Archives: Climate change

Climate, community, conflict & resilience

For the past two and half years, International Alert has been conducting field research in four South Asian countries on vulnerability to the effects of climate change, possibilities for adaptation, obstacles and how to overcome them. What shines out of these studies is the need for policies that integrate responses to climate and conflict challenges into developing a broadly based quality of resilience – in local communities and on the national stage. Continue reading

Climate change, resilience and peace

International Alert convenes an expert roundtable, Building resilience – building peace, in Kathmandu on Monday 8 July. It’s the culmination of two and half years of research on the impact of climate change on local communities in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan. I can’t be there so we recorded four minutes to camera as my contribution to the day’s events.

My brief comments emphasise the importance of thinking about the impact of climate change on four critical system – supply of water, food security, energy availability and supply natural resources supply. Responding to the challenge of climate change is about building resilience in those systems on which people everywhere depend.

Blog starting up again

This blog has been silent for several months. The main reason was simply that, alongside my day job, I had taken on another research and writing task – preparing the next edition of my atlas of world affairs, The State of the Worldand that took priority. But that’s done (publication date January 2013 but if you really want to use it as a Christmas present, get in touch – pre-publication copies have to be available) and so the blog is back.

At this point, I just want to give an idea of what I intend to be tackling over the coming months. There are five big issues that we – the world – need to get right if more people are to be able live in peace and with a reasonable degree of dignity. They are

  1. Wealth and poverty;
  2. War and peace;
  3. Rights and respect;
  4. Health of people;
  5. Health of the planet – the natural environment.

Despite the pessimism in Europe and America in this extended “moment” of prolonged economic downturn, reasonable progress has been made on three of those issues – war and peace, rights and respect, and health. Even though progress is limited and at risk from powerful countervailing trends, there has been real improvement. It’s on the economy and the environment that we are continuing to screw up.

The background to this lies in some very big issues:

  • The unprecedented scale of demographic shifts, including both population growth and staggeringly fast urbanisation;
  •  The scale of resource use and economic activity, which has increased much more quickly than population has grown;
  • The deep, global environmental predicament we are in – and getting deeper in: it is still poorly understood – among the missing ingredients of our knowledge are the consequences of different environmental issues interacting with each other.

Against this background, questions for my blogging include

  • How to keep building peace and expanding the scope of freedom;
  • Finding ways to ensure that economic and social development is about improving the conditions of ordinary people, not about strengthening the hold of an increasingly transnational-ised elite;
  • Working out which of our national and international institutions are not delivering the way they should be, why, and what can be done to, with and about them;
  • What kinds of knowledge we need in order to do better.

The world is not prepared for climate-related conflict

A recent meeting at DFID brought together a number of people from different government departments, NGOs and research centres to discuss some of the under-discussed aspects of the climate/security links. Laurie Goering captured the essence of the discussion in this AlertNet article.

Climate, river, land, oil, insecurity

It is sometimes difficult to give a vivid and convincing sense of the link between climate and the problems of insecurity. The linkage is indirect and can seem intangible. And there is a lack of hard evidence with which to demonstrate it because the problems are only now beginning. But then sometimes the link is brought out into the open in the most vivid and cogent form. Continue reading

Water, conflict and peace

Water is a basic condition of life. We depend upon it for daily use, for agriculture, for industry and infrastructure. A shortage, an excess and deficient quality can all undermine welfare, impair human security, hold back economic development and in some circumstances generate conflict. The London-based Foreign Policy Centre has published Tackling the World Water Crisis, an edited collection of articles in which mine looks at the peace and security issues around water. Continue reading

Chaff, noise and fog in the climate debate.

This is a critical time on climate. Scientific conclusions that had seemed largely settled and backed by professional consensus are today challenged with increasing confidence. Three months after Copenhagen, the policy pathway is still hard to discern.  Opinion polls show growing numbers of people think the globe is not warming, or not because of human action, or, variously, that not much can, need or should be done about it. Last week a House of Commons committee queried the state of climate science in the wake of the publication of emails to and from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit; this week a new UN review has been launched to assess the work of the Inter-govermental Panel on Climate Change.

Continue reading

Copenhagen: Recovering from the hangover

Copenhagen is a city where people like to party. Coming into December, the city was all dressed up for a climate party with posters of green exhortation everywhere and different official and unofficial events laid on. But in the end as everybody knows, the climate conference was no party. Yet there is this terrible sense of hangover around. Political leaders, delegates, activists and journalists have reeled away from the site and the recriminations have started about who just behaved badly and who actually threw up.

Around the city there were also some particularly crude advertisements using sex to sell booze with the slogan, “Party now, Apologize later.” But that’s another way the conference was not like a party. No-one has apologised. Even though the city encouraged them. One set of posters that went up well before the conference showed world leaders in 2020 apologizing for having failed in Copenhagen in 2009: ageing Obamas, Merkels, Browns et al look down and acknowledge their fault. But there have been no apologies. Instead they have passed the blame.

Let’s try something different. Instead of blame and apology let’s take some time to discuss results, reasons and response. It’s a lengthy discussion that must start now because it’s already time to shake off that hangover. Continue reading

Copenhagen: time to re-think? Or just keep thinking!

As thousands of negotiators, activists, diplomats, scientists, politicians and journalists start pouring into Copenhagen for the climate summit – formally said, the 15th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – the question has been raised whether we should want them to succeed or fail. Which, of course, begs the next question: what is success at Copenhagen?

So is Copenhagen not the time to seal a new climate deal after all? Is it time for a re-think? My own view is that it’s best never to stop thinking, then you don’t have to make the effort to start up again. Continue reading

Peacebuilding and adaptation to climate change: the 3 minute version

No more need for long posts. Between us, al-Jazeera and I have boiled down the whole climate-conflict-peace-adaptation issue, on which I have been writing at length, to a three minute news report. Well, not quite the whole but some of the core elements. Watch on.