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CLIMATE CHANGE AS AN UNCONVENTIONAL SECURITY RISK

CLIMATE CHANGE AS AN UNCONVENTIONAL SECURITY RISK

As security threats go, climate change is not the wolf at the door, threatening to blow the house down. Rather, it is thousands of termites whose individual impacts are small and hard to see, but whose collective impact is potentially just as catastrophic. Because of the complex nature of these threats, climate change does not fit neatly into conventional security paradigms for risk mitigation or neutralization. This implies the traditional toolkit for addressing security threats will need to be augmented by a more inclusive approach to conceptualizing national security threats and the agencies tasked with addressing them.

Climate change threatens security through a dizzying array of channels. Climate change will affect access to water, food, and energy — each of which is linked to conflict risk and national security through different channels — as well as patterns and prevalence of infectious disease, the frequency and scale of humanitarian crises, and human migration patterns. In turn, climate change will stress existing institutions for managing transboundary resources, like freshwater and fisheries, and may directly affect conflict risk between states, which itself can precipitate intrastate armed conflict. Climate change will also directly affect economies across the spectrum of levels of development.
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