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Global climate change has been increasingly defined as a security threat by a range of political actors and analysts. Yet as the range of voices articulating the need to conceive and approach climate change as a security issue has expanded, so too has the range of ways in which this link has been conceptualized. This article systematically maps different approaches to the relationship between climate change and security as climate security discourses, divided here between national, human, international and ecological security discourses. In exploring the contours of each, the articles asks how the referent object of security is conceptualised (whose security is at stake?); who are conceived as key agents of security (who is responsible for/able to respond to the threat?); how is the nature of the threat defined; and what responses are suggested for dealing with that threat? Systematically mapping these alternative discourses potentially provides a useful taxonomy of the climate change–security relationship in practice. But more importantly, it serves to illustrate how particular responses to climate change (and the actors articulating them) are enabled or constrained by the ways in which the relationship between security and climate change is understood. The article concludes by suggesting that the most powerful discourses of climate security are unlikely to inform a progressive or effective response to global climate change.
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Discourses of climate security
Matt McDonald
School of Political Science and International Studies, University of Queensland, c/o POLSIS, Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia
Climate security
Discourse analysis
Environmental security
Global climate change has been increasingly dened as a security threat by a range of political actors and
analysts. Yet as the range of voices articulating the need to conceive and approach climate change as
a security issue has expanded, so too has the range of ways in which this link has been conceptualized.
This article systematically maps different approaches to the relationship between climate change and
security as climate security discourses, divided here between national, human, international and eco-
logical security discourses. In exploring the contours of each, the articles asks how the referent object of
security is conceptualised (whose security is at stake?); who are conceived as key agents of security (who
is responsible for/able to respond to the threat?); how is the nature of the threat dened; and what
responses are suggested for dealing with that threat? Systematically mapping these alternative dis-
courses potentially provides a useful taxonomy of the climate changeesecurity relationship in practice.
But more importantly, it serves to illustrate how particular responses to climate change (and the actors
articulating them) are enabled or constrained by the ways in which the relationship between security
and climate change is understood. The article concludes by suggesting that the most powerful discourses
of climate security are unlikely to inform a progressive or effective response to global climate change.
Ó2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Global climate change has increasingly been dened and
approached as a security issue in contemporary global politics. The
United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has held two debates on
the international security implications of climate change in recent
years (2007 and 2011), the UN General Assembly (UNGA, 2009)
commissioned a report on this issue in 2009, while the security
threats associated with global climate change have also been
identied and explored by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP,
2007), the UN Development Program (UNDP, 2007), and the UN
Secretary General (Moon, 2007). Regional organizations from the
European Union to the Pacic Islands Forum have identied climate
change as a current and growing security threat, while climate
change has found its way into national security statements of key
political institutions throughout the world, from the USA to the UK,
Australia, Russia, Finland and Germany, among many others (see,
for example, Brzoska, 2010). And of course, the security implica-
tions of climate change have been identied and explored by public
policy-oriented think tanks, not-for-prot non-governmental or-
ganizations, and academic analysts.
Crucially, however, as the range of voices articulating the need
to conceive and approach climate change as a security issue has
expanded, so too has the range of ways in which this link has been
conceptualized. While some focus on the threat that climate change
poses to long-term human security (eg Matthew, Barnett,
McDonald, & OBrien, 2010;UNDP, 2007), others emphasize the
threat posed to the nation-state in terms of traditional concerns
with sovereignty and territorial integrity (eg Campbell, 2008;
Schwartz & Randall, 2003). And following these distinctions, some
conceptualizations encourage mitigation practiced across a range of
both sub-national and trans-national contexts to minimise the
threat itself (eg Brown & McLeman, 2009;Spratt & Sutton, 2008),
while others encourage adaptive measures to defend the state and
its key interests from manifestations of climate change (eg Busby,
2008;Podesta & Ogden, 2008). In short, while the idea of climate
change as a security threat is gaining both academic and practical
purchase, important differences in the logic of this link suggest
radically different responses to climate change as a security con-
cern. Given that these different framings inform proposed (and
enacted) policy responses to climate change, acknowledging and
exploring the contours of these distinctions is important in making
sense of how climate change is addressed in different contexts.
This article maps different conceptualisations of climate secu-
rityas climate security discourses: frameworks of meaning that
provide the lens through which climate change is conceptualized
and addressed in particular contexts. Following Hajer (1995:44),
a discourse is understood here as a specic ensemble of ideas,
concepts and categorizations that are produced, reproduced and
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Political Geography 33 (2013) 42e51
transformed in a particular set of practices and through which
meaning is given to physical and social realities. Such an under-
standing builds on Foucault (1977), who points to the ways in
which discourses constitute reality: imposing a partial vision of
reality as xed, timeless and universal; setting the terms for dis-
cussing or debating particular issues; dening subject positions and
the relationship between authorities and the governed; and even
constructing the identities of people and communities. Yet Hajers
(1995) conception of discourse challenges the Foucauldian ten-
dency to identify and examine a unitary and dominant framework
of meaning. Instead, his analysis suggests that only some discourses
become dominant or hegemonic in particular spatial and temporal
contexts, and that we would do well to recognise the existence of
multiple discourses competing to dene the way societies engage
with (in this case) climate change, along with the dynamics of that
competition (see also Dryzek, 2005). This understanding of dis-
courses informs the analysis to follow.
This article maps these different discourses eprimarily as ar-
ticulated by policy makers but also by a combination of lobbyists,
environmental advocates and academic analysts eand asks how
the referent object of security is conceptualised (whose security is
at stake?); who are conceived as key agents of security (who is
responsible for/able to respond to the threat?); how is the nature of
the threat dened; and what responses are suggested for dealing
with that threat?
Systematically mapping these alternative discourses potentially
provides a useful taxonomy of the climate changeesecurity rela-
tionship in practice, building on earlier claims that different con-
ceptions of the climateesecurity relationship entail different sets of
assumptions about who is to be secured and from what threats (eg
Brzoska, 2010;Floyd, 2008;Trombetta, 2008). But recognising
multiple climate security discourses at play is also crucial in a po-
litical sense. The analysis here suggests that what is at stake is the
nature of the response to climate change itself. When particular
discourses are advanced or embraced, especially by representatives
of political institutions, these discourses serve to legitimize some
practices and the actors engaged in them while marginalizing
others. Coming to terms with the contours, logics and implications
of different discourses of climate security, then, is important for
coming to terms with the broader politics of climate change.
This article proceeds in four stages. The rst section brieyex-
amines the evolution of engagement with the climate changee
security relationship in both academic and political debates. The
second section outlines the methodology of discourse analysis
employed here, justifying the selection of texts examined and the
utility of this approach for exploring dynamics of climate politics.
The third section eand the bulk of the analysis eidenties and
interrogates four climate security discourses organized around
different conceptions of the referent object of security. These
include climate security discourses focused on national security,
human security, international security, and ecological security. In
each, the paper identies who is advancing these discourses and
how these discourses conceive of the actor in need of protection,
the agent of security, the nature of the threat, the suggested re-
sponses to climate insecurity and the broader political implications
of these conceptions. The nal section reects on what this analysis
means for the way we think about the relationship between se-
curity and climate change and the politics of responses to climate
change itself.
Climate change and security
Global climate change emerged as a signicant international
political issue in the 1980s, when the science of climate change
began to solidify and momentum for international political action
developed. The climate change regime that emerged from the UN
Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 centred
around the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
(UNFCCC), itself based on the scientic assessments of the Inter-
governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The most recent
synthesis report of the IPCC (2007) concluded that global climate
change is very likelyto have a human cause, and that tempera-
tures were probably going to increase by 1.8e4
C by the end of the
century in the absence of mitigation efforts. The effects of such
a change (from a rise in sea levels and associated threats to low-
lying lands to changing patterns of rainfall, increasing severe
weather phenomena and an increase in vector-borne disease)
would be most signicantly felt in the developing world, where
large populations rely on land that is already at the limits of envi-
ronmental viability, and where state capacity to adapt to or respond
to manifestations of climate change is most limited (eg Patz et al.,
2005;UNDP, 2007). And aside from the threat climate change
poses to biodiversity, the 2006 Stern Review of the economic costs
of manifestations of climate change commissioned by the UK
government (Stern, 2006) estimated that the costs could amount to
20% of global GDP.
It was the scale and scope of climate change that encouraged
a range of actors to suggest that climate change should be con-
ceived and approached as a security threat. Initial claims along
these lines suggested that the threat that climate change posed to
the long-term survival of life on the planet warranted its consid-
eration as a security issue of the rst order (see Brown, 1986, and
more recently Mabey, 2007;Spratt & Sutton, 2008). For these ad-
vocates of a climate-security link, dening climate change as a se-
curity issue was seen as a manner of challenging dominant
(narrow) accounts of security and elevating climate change to the
high politicsrealm of security where it would attract the priority
and funding it deserved.
Beyond this security-survival link, which loosely mapped on to
the arguments of the so-called rst generationof environmente
security proponents (see Ronnfeldt, 1997), others began to
explore the relationship between climate change and traditional
conceptions of security associated with the threat of armed conict
(eg Homer-Dixon,1991,1999;Myers,1989). While given impetus of
late by UN agenciesattempts to link conict in Darfur to the effects
of climate change (see Moon, 2007;UNEP, 2007), initially climate
change did not feature prominently as a mooted cause of
environmentally-induced conict. To the extent that climate
change was seen as a cause of conict, it was viewed as potentially
intersecting with other sites of environmental conict such as
contestation over trans-boundary water resources (eg Gleick,
1993). This changed markedly as climate change began to domi-
nate the global environmental agenda, with a range of analysts
suggesting the possibility of climate change ushering in an era of
international instability and conict as political institutions strug-
gled to respond to new sets of challenges associated with failed
states, population movements, and material deprivation (eg
Campbell, 2008;Dyer, 2008;Mazo, 2010;Podesta & Ogden, 2007;
WGBU, 2007).
While these analysts can be seen as proponents of a climate-
security link, others were more sceptical about this link on ana-
lytical and normative grounds. Aside from those questioning the
empirical links between climate change and conict (eg Gleditsch &
Nordas, 2007;Saleyhan, 2008), some suggested that focussing on
the intersection between failed states, environmental change and
conict risked positioning the developing world as a source of
threat and prioritising the needs of states. This was prominent in
critical geopolitical analyses of discourses of environmental conict
(eg Barnett, 2000;Dalby, 1999,2002. See also Le Billon, 2001).
Daniel Deudney (1990), meanwhile, warned that promoting
M. McDonald / Political Geography 33 (2013) 42e51 43
environmental change as a security issue in general could encour-
age a military response: a response inconsistent with both the re-
quirements for an effective solution to problems of environmental
change and with proponentsgoals of challenging existing dis-
courses of security in global politics. This critique presaged many of
the concerns articulated by so-called Copenhagen School theorists
of securitization(eg Buzan, Wæver, & de Wilde, 1998;Wæver,
1995). Ole Wæver (1995) in particular suggested that while issues
such as climate change could come to be constructed as security
threats through being articulated and accepted as a security threat,
security itself has a logic that encourages urgency and exception-
alism, and a meaning tied to the military, defence and the state. As
such, for Wæver (1995) those concerned with promoting progres-
sive responses to issues such as climate change may be better
placed pursuing desecuritization: the removal of issues from se-
curity agenda and into the realm of normal politics, where they can
be openly debated and discussed.
Despite these concerns, momentum has developed behind the
idea of a climate changeesecurity link, especially as science asso-
ciated with climate change has hardened and its effects look less
avoidable. Both building on and reinforcing academic interest in this
relationship, a range of representatives of key political institutions
have acknowledged the potential security implications of climate
change and in some instances incorporated climate change formally
into security policy. The UN Human Development Programs 1994
Human Development Report (UNDP, 1994) identied climate
change as a threat to human security. More recently, UN Security
Council discussions in 2007 and 2011, along with UN General As-
sembly debates in 2008 and 2011, focused on the implications of
climate change for international stability and conict. This was
reected in the more specic suggestions of a relationship between
climate change and conict in Darfur put forward by the UN Envi-
ronment Program and the UN Secretary-General in 2007. And
a range of states and regional organizations eincluding France,
Australia, Finland, the United Kingdom and the European Union e
have formally incorporated climate change into security institutions
and policies (see Dupont, 2008).
Of course, the above account of the evolutionof climatee
security thought is partial and risks suggesting articial bound-
aries, for example between those with a concern for human well-
being on one hand and conict on the other (eg Barnett & Adger,
2007). Nevertheless, this broad progression (from survival to con-
ict, for example) captures key trends in these debates that have
been identied in a range of accounts of climate (and environment)
security literature (eg Levy,1995;Ronnfeldt, 1997). It should also be
noted that while some interventions continue to be articulated in
the face of compelling analytical and normative critique, and
remain stubbornly embedded in popular consciousness (future
projections of environmental refugees or water wars, for example),
debates about the relationship between climate change and secu-
rity have come a long way since early iterations. Climate change
certainly occupies a far more central role in considerations of the
relationship between the environment and security; climate
change seen is now more likely to be conceptualised as a threat
multiplierthan a cause of conict; and denitions of human se-
curity, for example, have increasingly moved towards a focus on
social and community-based variables of vulnerability and resil-
ience rather than material conditions of survival (see Barnett et al.,
2010:18). As conceptualizations of the climate security relationship
become more specic and (at least in some cases) more nuanced,
differences between framings of this relationship become even
more visible and politically signicant. At the broadest level, these
differences concern how we should make sense of this threat;
whether we should conceive and approach climate change as a se-
curity issue; and who should (or can) respond to climate change
and how. Exploring these differences and their political implica-
tions of these discourses is the focus of the remainder of this paper.
Discourse analysis and climate security
As noted, this paper endorses Hajers (1995:44) conception of
a discourse. These frameworks of meaning ein this case of security,
climate change and its relationship ecan be powerful and indeed
constitutive. If they become dominant, they can dene terms of
debate about particular issues, become incorporated into political
institutions, or require actors seeking credibility in a given domain
to draw on the ideas, concepts and categories of a given discourse
(Hajer, 1995:60). The suggestion that discourses can come to be
constituted in and through a range of practices is taken further in
the analysis of Müller (2008), who draws on Laclau and Mouffe
(1985) in pointing to the role of non-linguistic (often everyday)
practices in dening and reinforcing particular discourses. And in
her recent analysis of climate discourses, Kate Manzo (2012) points
to the role of visual representations, specically cartoons, in com-
municating and constituting climate change in various ways. While
these are important components of discourses, in the analysis that
follows my focus is predominantly on the textual and speech di-
mensions of discourse, not least as this is more conducive to an
analysis of the contours of a range of discourses and the political
actors attempting to advance them.
The four climate security discourses I address here are selected
and grouped according to their denition of the referent object: the
question of whose security is under consideration. The respective
answers to this question identied here are people(human se-
curity), nation-states(national security), the international com-
munity(international security) and the ecosystem(ecological
security). Of course, as John Dryzek (2005:8e19) has noted in his
broader analysis of environmental discourses, there are always
feasible alternatives to any grouping of discourses, and distinctions
between frameworks of meaning such as these are imperfect and
permeable. Nevertheless, the distinction along the lines of referent
object maps on to the central orienting question in debates about
security (see Booth, 1991); follows key distinctions about the
frames of reference for the politics of a response to climate change;
and situates relevant constituents in their different (if overlapping)
spatial and even temporal contexts.
A case can certainly be made, at least in terms of the rst three
discourses of human, national and international security, that these
frameworks of meaning dominate responses to the question of who
security is for regarding climate change. This is particularly the case
as interventions on climate security by key political actors (states
and IGOs in particular) work with one or more of those conceptions
of referent object, as the subsequent analysis demonstrates (see
also Brzoska, 2010). In turn, these discourses also serve to provide
a philosophical anchoring for claims about how we should subse-
quently respond to climate change, and who is responsible for (or
capable of) acting as agents of climate security. In large part, this is
why an analysis of discourse is so important: it allows us to rec-
ognize how different interpretations of climate change and its
relationship to security encourage particular political responses to
them, legitimise those actors undertaking such responses, and even
dene the terms of debate regarding the issue itself.
In the analysis that follows, the voices of state and IGO repre-
sentatives are examined closely as central proponents of climate
security discourses and ultimately as envisaged agents of climate
security provision. This question of voice is important. Exploring
which actors are articulating or working with particular discourses
and why is often important in making sense of the capacity for
these discourses to become dominant. Of the discourses explored
here, the three most prominent (national, human and international
M. McDonald / Political Geography 33 (2013) 42e5144
security) have been articulated and embraced by the representa-
tives of states and IGOs as a means of advancing their own political
agenda and encouraging particular sets of response to climate
change. The exception of those discourses explored here is that of
ecological security, which is rarely if ever articulated by key policy-
makers. Examining this discourse serves a slightly different func-
tion: to provide a neglected spatial and even temporal framing of
climate security, while reminding us of the existence of alternative
(even dissident) discourses, often invisible to the dynamics of
policy debate.
While therefore focussing on what are widely held to be key
interventions and texts on climate security by the representatives
of political institutions (in national security statements and UN
reports, for example), these are augmented with a focus on texts
produced by lobbyists, non-governmental organizations and aca-
demics. The point here is not to cover comprehensively all those
whose conception of climate security might fall within one or more
of these discourses. Rather, it is to use an indicative range of voices
to demonstrate the extent to whichthese discourses are articulated
across multiple media and settings, and to provide a robust account
of the contour of those discourses. In this, my analysis follows Lene
Hansens (2006:74) argument that body of texts examined in
meaningful discourse analysis should be made up of key texts that
are frequently quoted and function as nodes within the intertextual
web of debate, as well as a larger body of general material that
provides the basis for a more quantitative identication of the
dominant discourses. The voices consulted in the following are,
therefore, heterogenous while being necessarily selective and
partial. They do, however, serve to map on to central spatial
imaginaries regarding climate change, while engaging with the key
contours of debate about the problem itself, how we might respond
to it, and who is capable of or responsible for that response.
In each of the discourses identied here, choices of referent
object encourage and in many cases are explicitly tied to particular
political responses and the agential capacity of the actors articu-
lating them. Different responses identied here range from an ori-
entation to mitigation or adaptation, national/local strategies or
international cooperative efforts, even energy-oriented policy
practices or military strategic ones. Indeed Mike Hulmes (2011)
analysis reminds us that climate change needs to be understood
not simply as a physical or scienticproblem, but as a site of con-
testation between different actors with different conceptions of
what climate change signies and how we might respond to it.
Given the increasing prominence of securityas a label applied to
the challenges of climate change, exploring the different meanings
of climate security is important for understanding the multiple
means and agents envisaged for responding to climate change itself.
Climate change: a national security threat
Among the most prominent contemporary discourses of climate
security has been that which focuses on the threat that manifes-
tations of climate change pose to the security of the nation-state.
The prominence of this discourse is hardly surprising. For many,
security (in both theory and practice) is synonymous with the
nation-state and the preservation of its sovereignty and territorial
integrity, particularly from external threat (see Walt, 1991). In this
sense, a national securitydiscourse builds upon earlier research
emphasising the relationship between climate change and armed
conict (eg Kaplan, 1994;Uvin, 1996), and suggesting threats to the
sovereignty and institutional capacity of the state (eg Levy, 1995).
Yet of course, there is nothing inevitable about the dominance of
a discourse that focuses on the preservation of the nation-state in
the context of a problem that seems to precisely challenge the
relevance of territorial borders.
The national security discourse has been consistently advanced
by representatives of existing national security institutions and by
those attempting to speak to policy-makers. Key security state-
ments from the Departments of Defence in the United States and
Australia, for example, have both embraced the idea that climate
change should be considered a national security threat requiring
incorporation into the considerations and policies of the national
security establishment (DOD, 2009;Floyd, 2010). In its 2009
Defence White Paper, the Australian Department of Defence
(2009:29) noted that
trends such as global demographic change and population
movements, environmental and resource pressures (whether
caused by climate change or other dynamics)...will increase the
risk of conict over resources, political instability in fragile
states and potentially destabilising mass migration ows.
Some 15 years earlier, the US Department of Defence had
dened climate change as a possible type of environmental secu-
rity threatthat undermined DODs ability to prepare for or carry
out the National Security Strategy or create instabilities that can
threaten US National Security(in Floyd, 2010:89). For cynics, the
attempts by Defence Departments to embrace the threat posed by
climate change can be viewed as attempts to retain existing bud-
gets in a new global security environment, particularly in a post-
Cold War era (eg Floyd, 2010;Hartmann, 2009). Within this dis-
course egiven the continued focus on responding to the threat of
conict ethe central agent of security remains the state and in
particular the military.
If this national security discourse has been embraced by some
state defence establishments, it has also been embraced by public-
policy oriented think tanks attempting to speak to policy-makers.
This has been particularly prominent in the United States, with
a range of think-tanks and their representatives pointing to the role
of climate change as a threat multiplier(CNA, 2007:5): compli-
cating US national security policy and contributing to unrest that
could directly challenge US national security. The Center for Naval
Analysis (CNA, 2007), the Center for a New American Century
(Burke & Parthemore, 2008), the Brookings Institute (Campbell,
2008), and the Council on Foreign Relations (Busby, 2007) all pro-
duced reports examining the implications of climate change for US
national security, building on growing international public concern
with climate change in the period 2006e2007 (see Oels, 2012:192).
Similar publications (focussing on the national security implica-
tions of climate change) emerged from public policy-oriented think
tanks in the UK (IISS, 2007) and Australia (Bergin & Townsend,
2007). Representatives of these institutions also sought to impact
on academic debate, outlining the strategic implications of climate
change (eg Dupont, 2008) and the nature of the threat posed to US
national security (Busby, 2008).
The responses to climate change envisaged or suggested by this
national security discourse certainly includes recognition of the
need for mitigation strategies, but largely focuses on the ways in
which states might adapt to manifestations of climate change. In
broad terms, the suggestion here is that militaries and defence
establishments should become more aware of potential axes of
(climate-induced) conict and develop responsive strategies to
better secure and protect national interests in this changing stra-
tegic era (eg Brzoska, 2010;Podesta & Ogden, 2007:132e4). For
Joshua Busby (2008:500),adaptation and disaster risk reduction
strategies should be the priority response for climate security
Clearly, national strategies of adaptation have some role to play
in responding to the threat posed by climate change, not least given
that some manifestations of climate change are now unavoidable.
However, they can also encourage perverse responses that do not
M. McDonald / Political Geography 33 (2013) 42e51 45
address the causes of climate change and even position those
affected most by it as threatening. This danger was evident in
a 2003 Pentagon-commissioned report on the national security
threats associated with an abrupt climate change scenario. Here,
the authors suggested that some relatively self-sufcient states
might seek to develop more effective border control strategies to
ensure that large populations displaced by manifestations of cli-
mate change (whether rising sea levels or extreme weather events)
could be kept on the other side of the national border (Schwartz &
Randall, 2003). And while such mooted responses to climate
change are extreme, they are ultimately logical extensions of
a discourse oriented towards the immediate security concerns of
the nation-state.
The national security discourse has enjoyed political traction,
and has potentially served to raise the prole of climate change as
an issue within the developed world (see Brown & McLeman, 2009;
Harris, 2012;Schoch, 2011). For national defence establishments,
this discourse also discourages radical recongurations of security
jurisdictions and budgets: clearly in the interests of those organi-
zations. And while some think-tank representatives and analysts
have presented their focus on the national security implications of
climate change as an analytical rather than normative choice (eg
Busby, 2008: 503; Levy, 1995), it is far more difcult to accept that
such choices do not have normative implications, potentially
feeding perverse policy responses to environmental change and
human vulnerability. As noted, a national security focus encourages
viewing climate change as a threat to the extent that it precipitates
military threats, undermines national economic growth or un-
dermines the national way of life. This focus could also encourage
an increase in military budgets to respond to potential insecurities
in environmental hotspots, for example (see Matthew, 2002;Scott,
2008;WGBU, 2007). Further, people displaced by environmental
disasters or environmental stress may be positioned as threats to
the security of the state rather than as those in need of being
secured (see Campbell, 2008;CNA, 2007;Podesta & Ogden, 2007e
8). Taken to an extreme, those states relatively well placed to adapt
to the effects of climate change might seek to protect themselves
from those unable to do so (Schwartz & Randall, 2003).
Climate change: a human security threat
Of course the most obvious response to the potentially perverse
implications of a national security discourse regarding the security-
climate change link is to focus on an alternative referent object.
Most prominent here has been the discourse of human security.
This discourse, advanced initially through the 1994 UNDP Human
Development Report (UNDP, 1994), seeks to orient security around
the wellbeing of people rather than states. This reorientation of
security is built on two central claims. First, that states are at best
unreliable in providing security for their citizens, and in some cases
directly undermine the wellbeing of their own populations. Second,
that the realities of contemporary global politics are such that
a focus on the preservation of state sovereignty and territory no
longer reects the security concerns of most people or the nature of
contemporary security challenges.
The human security discourse regarding climate change has
been embraced and/or advanced by some UN agencies and even
a number of states. Most prominent of the former has been the
United Nations Development Program, which was central to the
development of this discourse. The UNDPs initial human security
formulation recognised environmental security as a core compo-
nent of human security and sought to illustrate the ways in which
issues such as climate change could threaten security dened in
terms of human life and dignity(UNDP, 1994: 22). Ultimately, the
UNDP and other early advocates of a human security approach
focused their attention on the question of material needs, empha-
sising the conuence between developmental imperatives and
security (eg Page & Redclift, 2002). Here, (human) security could
be understood as a universal material condition, one potentially
undermined by manifestations of climate change (see Dalby,
A human security discourse regarding climate change was also
embraced in the 2009 UN General Assembly report, Climate Change
and its Possible Security Implications. Here, the report explicitly
noted its focus on the security of individuals and communities,
and its endorsement of the notion of human security as outlined in
the UNDPs (1994) Human Development Report (UNGA, 2009. See
also Oels, 2012). Such an embrace is telling given the concerns
outlined by prominent UNGA members and groupings (the Group
of 77 and the Non-Aligned Movement, for example) with the focus
on national and international security in the UNSCs discussions of
climate security and the use of the latter as a forum to approach this
relationship at all. Recognising the interests of these political actors
in advancing particular discourses can also encourage us to rec-
ognise the different framings of climate security relations within
states themselves across different agencies. In her analysis of cli-
mate security discourses in the United Kingdom, Katie Harris
(2012:15) suggests that while the Foreign and Commonwealth
Ofce (FCO) frames climate change in terms of its possible impli-
cations for domestic and international security, for example, the
Department for International Development (DFID) frames climate
change with a focus on vulnerability (and) poverty reduction. The
latter is particularly consistent with the human security discourse,
and encourages a focus on the use of overseas development assis-
tance to minimise vulnerability and enhance adaptive capabilities
in the developing world.
The most sophisticated conception of climate change as a hu-
man security issue has come through the Norwegian government-
funded Global Environmental Change and Human Security (GECHS)
project based in Oslo. Analysts associated with the GECHS have
dened human security as a situation in which
individuals and communities have the options necessary to end,
mitigate, or adapt to threats to their human, environmental and
social rights; have the capacity and freedom to exercise these
options; and actively participate in pursuing these options
(Barnett et al., 2010:18).
In their work these scholars emphasise the range of ways eas
manifestations of climate change meet with structures of political,
economic and social inequality ethat people and communities
might be deprived of the ability to exercise control over their own
lives. They also emphasize that a holistic and wide-ranging concept
such as human security provides a strong basis for developing an
integrated view of the multifaceted relationship between material
climatic conditions and effects, global structures of inequality, and
community-based understandings of core values in need of pro-
tection and adaptive capacity at their disposal (see Barnett,
2003:14; OBrien, 2006).
A broad range of practices are suggested as responses to the
human security threats posed by climate change. For the UNDP and
UKs DFID, mitigation and the redistribution of material resources is
seen as central for providing security for populations vulnerable to
climate change in general. For the GECHS project, adaptation fea-
tures more strongly in terms of the resilience of communities
threatened by climate change, but the central focus here is on
mitigation strategies and overturning existing structures of
inequality that will in turn allow vulnerable communities to
become masters of their own destiny (see Barnett, 2003;Brown &
McLeman, 2009:294e5). The cosmopolitanism associated with the
human security discourse, concerned as it is with challenging the
M. McDonald / Political Geography 33 (2013) 42e5146
moral constraints imposed by statism and emphasising instead
universal human rights and the universality of moral obligation,
also implies a commitment to mitigation efforts.
Ultimately, those advocating a link between climate change and
human security are attempting to mobilise environmental action
without defaulting to the state as security referent and provider. In
early UNDP iterations, the human security concept was originally
seen as a way of reorienting state security practices, priorities and
(crucially) funding away from military preparedness and towards
redressing global inequality. This clearly reects the goals of UNDP,
concerned as it is with mobilising responses to poverty and
The GECHS project, meanwhile, builds on this goal while
simultaneously attempting to avoid articulating a universal liberal
vision of security to be applied to other communities, and to avoid
the dangers of securitizing an issue such as climate change. There is
recognition here that
broadening the range of security risks without explicitly iden-
tifying a referent object that is not the state most often oper-
ationalizes state monopolization of responses to meet the new
security challenges (Barnett et al., 2010: 6).
Yet while explicit about the pathologies associated with
securitizationand the need to avoid defaulting to states, militaries
and exceptionalism, this discourse has fallen short in providing
clear ideas about agency. Indeed the human security discourse
more broadly has been criticised as enabling states to coopt an
apparent cosmopolitan political agenda into existing state in-
stitutions (see Chandler & Hynek, 2011). While agency is under-
stood as residing more with communities themselves than is
acknowledged in depictions of vulnerablecommunities, for
example, (see McNamara & Gibson, 2009) there is also recognition
that the conditions of their vulnerability (exposure to the effects of
climate change as well as economic inequality, political oppression
and social exclusion, for example) may be beyond their control. In
this sense, agency itself becomes far more complicated and con-
testable within the human security discourse, and this ambiguity
creates space in which states and militaries can reassert themselves
as central security providers (see Hartmann, 2009).
Climate change: an international security threat
The third prominent discourse linking climate change and se-
curity to be addressed here focuses on climate change as a threat to
international security. In many ways this discourse sits between the
national and human security discourses: there is an emphasis on
the dangers that climate change poses to stability and the status
quo that is reminiscent of the national security discourse, but there
is also strong emphasis on the need for internationalism in
response to climate change and a central role for global coopera-
tion. The referent object of security in this discourse is ultimately
international society, climate change is seen as a threat to the
norms and rules of this international society (particularly in terms
of the maintenance of a particular global order), international or-
ganizations are seen as key agents for providing security, and in-
ternational cooperation in terms of both mitigation and adaptation
efforts are seen as crucial to the response to this threat.
The link between climate change and international security has
been most powerfully advanced by representatives of international
organizations. As noted, both the UNEP (2007) and the UN
Secretary-General (Moon, 2007) attempted to link conict in Darfur
to the manifestations of climate change, with climate-induced
agricultural challenges encouraging population movements
which were seen as triggering confrontation between groups over
increasingly scarce natural resources. While these links have
certainly been questioned (see Brown & McLeman, 2009), they also
raise important questions about why particular actors attempt to
securitizean issues such as climate change. The UNEPs concern
could reasonably be interpreted as attempting to mobilise inter-
national responses to environmental change. This was particularly
evident in its acknowledged rationale for the report ecatalysing
action to address key environmental problems(UNEP, 2007)eand
in recommendations that focused on developing a stronger envi-
ronmental component to international aid and development pro-
jects in Africa (UNEP, 2007: 17). While the UN Secretary-General
built on these concerns (Moon, 2007), there was also a clear sug-
gestion that the role of climate change meant that states of the rst
world had stronger than usual responsibility for considering
intervention in Darfur in the face of genocide.
These UN-led attempts to link climate change and international
stability/security were furthered by other organizations eager to
promote stronger international responses to climate change and
a more robust role for international organizations. In their report
for International Alert, Smith and Vivekananda (2007) identify over
40 states at risk of climate-induced conict, and outline a policy
agenda in response to these threats to international stability that
focuses on both the transition to low-carbon economies and the
development of adaptive capacity. For the authors, like the UNEP,
the latter is to be achieved through the transfer of technology,
expertise and resources from the developed to the developing
world to enhance their resilience to manifestations of climate
change. Representatives of the Brookings Institution have also
worked within this international security discourse. Purvis and
Busby (2004) suggest that climate change poses a serious threat
to international stability, and requires the strengthening of inter-
national organizations to coordinate an effective mitigation regime
and to ensure sufcient adaptive capacity for developing states in
particular. They endorse the focus of UNSC discussions in sug-
gesting that
Climate change will trigger profound global change, and these
changes could pose genuine risks to international peace and
security. Managing these changes will require well-conceived
actions within the UN system (Purvis & Busby, 2004:72).
The central role of international organizations as key security
agents is an important feature of this international security dis-
course, and is hardly surprising given the prominence of repre-
sentations of these organizations in advancing it. Rasmussen and
Beck (2012:47), for example, suggest that the only institution
presently in a position to react to global environmentalthreats to
security, such as climate change, appears to be the UN Security
Council. Perhaps predictably, then, this discourse has raised con-
cerns among those for whom the goal of preserving international
society from the threat posed by climate change equates to pre-
serving a particular liberal international order and the privileged
position of (some) states within that order. Both the 2007 and 2011
debates within the UN Security Council demonstrated some of
these issues, with states such as Brazil, China, India and Russia,
along with collective groupings such as the Group of 77 and the
Non-Aligned Movement, contesting the move to position climate
change as an international security issue (see Harris, 2012). More
directly, there is also scepticism about the proposed role for the UN
Security Council as a central agent of security in this sense. These
concerns relate to broader criticisms of the unrepresentative nature
of the Councils membership, and more specically to the possi-
bility that climate change will be used as a justication for military
intervention by powerful states (see Eckersley, 2007;Hulme,
2011:284e7; Scott, 2008).
Given the more amorphous nature of notions of international
society, the question of the specic form of threat and the selection
M. McDonald / Political Geography 33 (2013) 42e51 47
of referent objects is less clear in the international security dis-
course. While at times the focus is squarely placed on international
peace and security(Purvis & Busby, 2004:72), largely conceived in
terms of international stability, other analyses working with this
discourse oscillate between a focus on the state and human welfare.
This broadly reects the tension in international society theory it-
self between pluralist and solidarist accounts of that society,
emphasising order and justice respectively (see Bull, 1995). Jasparro
and Taylor (2008), for example, focus on climate change as
a transnational security threat, dened as non-military threats
that cross borders and either threaten the political and social
integrity of a state or the health and quality of life of its
They go on to acknowledge that these threats therefore operate
at the intersection of often competing notions of human security
and traditional understandings of state/national security(Jasparro
& Taylor, 2008:233). Alan Duponts (2008:46) analysis of the stra-
tegic implications of climate change also draws on both ap-
proaches, suggesting that
Climate change of the magnitude and time frames projected by
climate scientists poses fundamental questions of human se-
curity, survival and the stability of states...
For Smith and Vivekananda (2007: 29), a shifting focus is
necessary to come to terms with the complex nature of the threat
climate changes poses:
The consequences of climate change, the incidence of violent
conict and the corrosive effects of state fragility are all major
problems. To take them on together is to take aim at a very
difcult target. But it is necessary because these problems are
not isolated from each other.
Of course there is little basis for contesting the idea that climate
change poses threats to both state institutions and the survival and
livelihoods of people. However the danger here (reecting the
dangers of the human security discourse) is that this lack of spe-
cicity potentially enables traditional security actors to position
themselves as the key security providers (see Hartmann, 2009). But
while advocates of linking human security and climate change have
engaged precisely with these types of implications (Barnett et al.,
2010), acknowledging the dangers of securitization has not fea-
tured in attempts to link climate change, security and international
society. Arguably, this is unsurprising if the discourse is one that
orients towards the interests of key states in the international
system and the maintenance of the international status quo.
Ultimately the responses encouraged by the international se-
curity discourse focus on the strengthening of international in-
stitutions, increasing international cooperation generally, and
global approaches to the management of both the problem itself
(through mitigation) and its manifestations in particular places
(through adaptation). International organizations have a central
role to play as agents of security, while the threat posed by climate
change is one posed to both people and states as components of
a broader conception of international society. In these senses, this
discourse orients towards the maintenance of the international
system in its current form from the threat climate change poses to
the international order.
Climate change: an ecological security threat
The nal climate security discourse to be discussed here e
ecological security eis one that has not achieved a position of
prominence in debates about responses to climate change. While
constituting an obvious fourth image in spatial terms (the
biosphere beyond various form of human communities), this dis-
course is also examined here as a form of what Jennifer Milliken
(1999:243) denes as subjugated knowledges: frameworks mar-
ginal to the conduct of debate or pursuit of policy but which can
work to create conditions for resistance to a dominating discourse,
and perhaps an exploration of how the dominating discourse ex-
cludes or silences its alternative. It is a discourse that focuses on
the need to fundamentally rebalance the relationship between
people and the natural environment, orienting around the referent
object of the biosphere. It also suggests the need to revisit those
political, economic and social structures that serve to both separate
people from the environment and give rise to processes of envi-
ronmental change (eg Barnett, 2001;Dalby, 2009;Pirages &
Cousins, 2005). This discourse has been articulated or advanced
by a number of environmental NGOs and critically-oriented aca-
demic analysts. Of the former, the Friends of the Earth text Climate
Code Red (Spratt & Sutton, 2008) advances a discourse of ecological
security in focussing on the need for systematic structural change
in our relationship to the natural environment. Developing this
theme, the Indian NGO Foundation for Ecological Security promotes
a model of ecologically-oriented development. The stated aims of
the organization include developing initiatives with local com-
munity groups and appropriate civil society actors that are eco-
logically sustainable, socially and ecologically equitable, and
provide relief to the poor, in particular(FES, 2012).
In academic literature, the most explicit discussion of ecological
security is advanced by Dennis Pirages (2005:4), who describes it as
resting on:
Preserving the following four interrelated dynamic
1) Between human populations living at higher consumptions
levels and the ability of nature to provide resources and
2) Between human populations and pathogenic microorganisms;
3) Between human populations and those of other plant and an-
imal species;
4) Among human populations.
For Pirages (2005:4),insecurity increases wherever any of these
equilibriums is disregarded either by changes in human behaviour
or in nature.Sodened, in this discourse ecological balance is that
in need of preservation (not necessarily the status quo, given evi-
dence of systematic damage to natural equilibrium), and the nature
of the threat posed is wide-ranging. There is also a recognition that
moral obligation extends to other living beings, a recognition
wholly absent from other discourses of climate security. This is
evident also in the FES (2012) commitment to the protection and
restoration of biodiversity.
Advocates of this view are somewhat reluctant to wholly endorse
a discourse of (climate) security, a reluctance reected in a subse-
quent reticence to articulate which actors are capable of providing
security or how we might craft a feasible political response to
insecurity. Notions of agency are understood in vague terms, and to
the extent that there is a unifying theme across the discourse on this
issue it is one that locates agency in the capacity of people to change
their ecological consciousness in such a way as to subsequently
change (damaging) political, economic and social structures and
practices. Responses to climate change too are less likely to focus on
the binary of mitigation and adaptation, and more likely to consider
the range of ways in which global climate change is embedded in
taken-for-granted forms of cultural practice, political economy and
norms of international society (see Dalby, 2002,2009,FES, 2012). As
a set of responses, then, the ecological security discourse encourages
us to re-examine the nature of our relationship to the natural
M. McDonald / Political Geography 33 (2013) 42e5148
environment, and to fundamentally challenge exiting structures and
norms that encourage or even compel environmental change (on
this point, see also Barnett, 2001).
For advocates of a move to ecological security, therefore, the
imperatives of ecological security precisely require the restructur-
ing of society and our relationship with the environment (Barnett,
2001;Dalby, 2009). While this is at heart a normative claim, there is
also some suggestion here that recognition of the imperatives of
ecological security might increasingly challenge and redene the
way we think about both security and the environment in practice.
This is echoed in Julia Trombettas (2008) discussion of environ-
mental security. Here, she argues that those concerned about the
dangers of securitizing the environment focus exclusively on the
impact of a security logic on environmental issues: not the poten-
tial for changing pathologies and practices of security associated
with the need to consider and respond to environmental change
(see also Oels, 2012).
The ecological security discourse has not impacted signicantly
on policy or academic debates. Certainly, the political responses
encouraged by this discourse einvolving as they do a fundamental
challenge to key structures and discourses of global politics e
creates no obvious constituencies among those in positions of po-
wer to pursue policies that might advance these particular ends.
Simon Dalby (2009:54) captures the fundamental nature of this
challenge in suggesting that
The separation of humanity from an external nature, which we
can then somehow both seek protection from and simulta-
neously seek to protect, is a crucial part of what makes us
Proponents of this discourse are also less than specic about
what would be required to realise a condition of ecological security.
Yet to the extent that the practices associated with global climate
change ow from dominant modern conceptions of development,
the natural world and the necessity of exclusive political entities in
the form of states, this discourse is one that most systematically
speaks to the nature of the contemporary ecological crisis of which
climate change is the latest (and most threatening) development.
Conclusion: discourses and logics of climate security
The above discussion illustrates that there are multiple ways of
conceiving of the relationship between security and global climate
change, with different conceptions of who is in need of being
secured, from what threat, by what actors, and through what
means. The key contours of these distinctions are represented in
Table 1.
Of course, like any taxonomy, the above distinctions are partial
and imperfect, with boundaries between these categories far from
xed or wholly exclusive. It does, however, capture the key con-
tours and emphases of these discourses, and points to signicant
differences about how we should make sense of the relationship
between security and climate change, and indeed whether we
should advocate a particular association between climate change
and security. The latter point relates to the all-important question
of what practices might follow from approaching climate change as
a security issue. To return to the central point of this paper, at stake
here is not simply that there exist multiple different ways of un-
derstanding this relationship analytically, but that different un-
derstandings encourage and legitimize different sets of practices
with potentially radically different implications for climate change
policy and practice.
This paper suggests that those discourses of climate security
that have achieved most prominence and political support are not
those that could feasibly inform an effective global response to
global climate change. While the national and international secu-
rity discourses have found their way into popular consciousness
and even become institutionalised in state and intergovernmental
institutions, both orient around the preservation of some notion of
the status-quo: either the preservation of the sovereignty/territo-
rial integrity of nation-states or the preservation of an international
society of states. This orientation is inconsistent with the scale of
climate crisis that we now confront, which current practices and
institutions should be seen as profoundly failing to address. More
importantly, and as noted, the logic of these discourses can
encourage perverse political responses that not only fail to respond
effectively to climate change but may present victims of it as
a threat. This most readily applies to the national security discourse,
which can encourage states (including those most responsible for
contributing to the problem) to close borders to those displaced by
climate change, for example.
The above analysis also cautions against either simply rejecting
or embracing a climate change-security link. On the environment-
security link, for example, those who would see such a linkage as
inherently problematic or dangerous (eg Deudney, 1990) risk rei-
fying and responding to a particular discourse of environmental
security tied to the preservation of the nation-state and the cen-
trality of military means, for example. As the above analysis has
suggested, other environmental security discourses, ones that
reject the state, military and exceptionalist practices, can be seen in
both public debate and academic analysis. And some discourses
(human security and ecological security discourses in particular)
precisely reject the role of these orienting concerns, suggesting in
the process a basis for rethinking our relationship to the natural
world and what we mean by security.
Discourses of climate security matter. They serve to dene who
is in need of protection from the threat posed by climate change;
who is capable of providing this protection; and (crucially) what
forms responses to these threats might take. The dominance of
discourses associated with national and international security
(evidenced in the national security strategies and institutional ar-
rangements of states, along with discussions in the United Nations
Security Council) suggest an orientation towards the preservation
of some version of the status quo. Indeed it is signicant to note
that those voices most opposed to UNSC discussions on the inter-
national security threats of climate change in 2007 and 2011 (the
Table 1
Discourses of climate security.
Discourse Referent Threat Agent Response
National security Nation-state Conict, sovereignty, economic interests State Adaptation
Human security People Life and livelihood, core values and practices States, NGOs, international
community, communities themselves
International security International society Conict, global stability International organizations Mitigation and Adaptation
Ecological security Biosphere Challenges to equilibrium associated with
contemporary political, social and
economic structures
People: changing political
Fundamental reorientation
of societal patterns and behaviour
M. McDonald / Political Geography 33 (2013) 42e51 49
NAM, G77, China, Russia, India and Brazil) have been those states
most sceptical about the legitimacy of that international order it-
self. Perhaps more importantly, an orientation towards the pres-
ervation of the status quo appears inconsistent with the scale of the
challenge climate change poses, which requires a fundamental re-
examination of the nature of our relationship to the world in
which we live. In this sense, the ecological security discourse offers
the most hope for orienting progressive and effective responses to
climate change, yet its marginalization from contemporary debates
about climate security could certainly justify scepticism about the
value of a climate change-security framing and the prospects for
responding effectively to climate change more generally.
Funding for the research in this paper was provided through
a UQ Early Career Researcher Grant Award. For their feedback on an
earlier version of this paper I am particularly grateful to Ashleigh
Croucher, the anonymous reviewers and James Sidaway.
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... Twitter has been widely recognized as an important venue for institutional communications; news media increasingly rely on the platform as a primary source of official statements and positiontaking. Its potential as a real-time, topic-driven platform enables rapid detection of trends to uncover discourse dynamics (McDonald 2013). Hence, to frame perceptions around the climate-socioeconomic insecurities-conflict nexus at the national policy level in Kenya, an analysis of government communications on Twitter was performed. ...
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... The latter is one of the reasons for which several scholars consider 2007 to be a landmark year for climate security [16,32,[35][36][37][38][39][40][41][42], the second being the fact that in that same year, IPCC, along with Al Gore, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Both cases were unprecedented. ...
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In this paper, we are interested in assessing the different environmental security concepts, policies, and actions of actors involved in the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). Through exploratory qualitative research, we interviewed key stakeholders who formulate both the climate security discourse and its policy outcomes. Aiming at finding the different perceptions and practices among various actors, we conducted 27 qualitative interviews with practitioners from 17 different institutions, such as EU bodies and agencies, think tanks, and ministries of defense (MoDs). This article discusses the divergence between announced environmental and climate security strategies and policies related to their actual results. Notably, the findings indicate that the effectiveness of the political directives compared with the practices and the developed capabilities around the environment–security nexus are dependent on individual initiatives and efforts that a developing community of practitioners is attempting to carry out. Our study indicates that tailored environmental security policies and actions are needed to motivate both practitioners and policymakers to develop downstream methods and programs that are suited to resolving security-related challenges associated with environmental issues and especially climate change.
... Numerous scholars have used Council deliberations as evidence for securitization theory to describe and analyze a discursive process in which the issue of interest is presented as an existential threat and accepted as such. For example, some scholars see an extensive securitization of climate change, or even a "climatization" of security, in the global security discourse at the UNSC and other venues ( Barnett and Adger 2007 ;McDonald 2013 ;Maertens 2021 ;Maertens and Hardt 2021 ). Others see a similar process occurring for public health issues ( Rushton 2011 ;Burci 2014 ;Voss et al. 2022 ). ...
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Since the end of the Cold War, the notion of global security, and presumed threats to it, has undergone considerable expansion and diversification. This process has been led by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), where active deliberations concerning “threat(s) to the peace” have taken place among major international actors. Despite a sizable accumulation of scholarly arguments, however, the defining features of the structure and dynamics of the post-Cold War security discourse remain ambiguous. To address these ambiguities, this study investigates the entire body of Council deliberations over the past three decades. Based on an original dataset consisting of policy statements delivered at the UNSC, the study employs quantitative text analysis tools, including word embedding, to examine how council members have conceived the notion of security threat in terms of the various issues and entities discussed. It shows the security discourse at the UNSC to be highly stratified and reveals the persistent and pervasive influence of terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, which constitute the limited common grounds shared by the Council’s permanent members. These findings caution against the unconstrained use of certain theoretical constructs widely employed in other works, most notably, “securitization” and “interpretative community.”
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Climate change is a significant security concern in the 21st century. This study is specifically focused on the interplay between climate change and domestic security within the U.S. context but is of relevance to other countries that are vulnerable to climate change impacts. The study comparatively explores mainstream environmental security literature and U.S. homeland security academic literature on climate-security nexus and establishes three things as follows. First, there is a relatively small but growing body of literature that explores the nexus between climate change and U.S. homeland security. Second, contemporary homeland security academic literature primarily frames climate change as a threat multiplier but does not account for maladaptation, which this article argues is a key aspect of the climate-security nexus including within the U.S. context. Third, maladaptation is already increasingly being accounted for within mainstream environmental security literature in addition to the threat multiplier aspect of the nexus. The article advances knowledge on climate-security nexus within homeland security field by proposing a comprehensive conceptual framework that would enable U.S. homeland security academics to account for both threat multiplier and maladaptation aspects of the climate change problem in their analysis. The article concludes with recommendations for future research.
International, regional, and national organizations and policymakers are increasingly acknowledging the implications of climate on peace and security, but robust research approaches that embrace the complexity of this nexus are lacking. In this paper, we present the Integrated Climate Security Framework (ICSF), a mixed-methods framework to understand the mechanisms of climate–conflict linkages at different scales. The framework uses conventional and non-conventional methods and data to provide state-of-the-art policy-relevant evidence that addresses four main questions: how, where and for whom climate and conflict risks occur, and what can be done to mitigate this vicious circle. The framework provides a comprehensive assessment of the complex social-ecological dynamics, adopting systems approaches that rely on a combination of epistemological stances, thereby leveraging diverse qualitative, quantitative, locally relevant, and multifaceted data sources; and on a diversity of actors involved in the co-production of knowledge. Using a case study from Kenya, we show that the climate security nexus is highly complex and that there exists strong, theoretical, and statistical evidence that access to natural resources, livelihoods and food security are important pathways whereby climate can increase the risk of conflict, and that conflict undermines resilience objectives. We also find that communities in climate security hotspots are aware and highly knowledgeable about the risk that the climate crisis poses on existing drivers of conflict and yet, online issue mapping and policy coherence analysis indicate that policymakers have not been acknowledging the nexus appropriately. The policy-relevant evidence that is collected through the ICSF and collated in the CGIAR Climate Security Observatory aims to fill this gap and to help transform climate adaptation into an “instrument for peace”.
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The assertion that many environmental problems constitute security risks is correct, and is of very little importance. The purely rhetorical line of argumentation that urges us to consider environmental problems and security problems as by their very nature inseparable is probably destined to disappear. Whatever needs for attention-getting may have been present in the late 1980`s, they are past now. If the problems these writers point to are really as serious as they say, then the more pressing need is not for more {open_quotes}new thinking{close_quotes} but for effective solutions. 62 refs, 1 tab.
The term “national security” has become a commonplace expression, a concept regularly appealed to. It is used to justify the maintenance of armies, the development of new weapons systems, and the manufacture of armaments. A fourth of all the federal taxes in the United States and at least an equivalent amount in the Soviet Union are levied in its name.
The Earth's human population is expected to pass eight billion by the year 2025, while rapid growth in the global economy will spur ever increasing demands for natural resources. The world will consequently face growing scarcities of such vital renewable resources as cropland, fresh water, and forests. Thomas Homer-Dixon argues in this sobering book that these environmental scarcities will have profound social consequences--contributing to insurrections, ethnic clashes, urban unrest, and other forms of civil violence, especially in the developing world. Homer-Dixon synthesizes work from a wide range of international research projects to develop a detailed model of the sources of environmental scarcity. He refers to water shortages in China, population growth in sub-Saharan Africa, and land distribution in Mexico, for example, to show that scarcities stem from the degradation and depletion of renewable resources, the increased demand for these resources, and/or their unequal distribution. He shows that these scarcities can lead to deepened poverty, large-scale migrations, sharpened social cleavages, and weakened institutions. And he describes the kinds of violence that can result from these social effects, arguing that conflicts in Chiapas, Mexico and ongoing turmoil in many African and Asian countries, for instance, are already partly a consequence of scarcity. Homer-Dixon is careful to point out that the effects of environmental scarcity are indirect and act in combination with other social, political, and economic stresses. He also acknowledges that human ingenuity can reduce the likelihood of conflict, particularly in countries with efficient markets, capable states, and an educated populace. But he argues that the violent consequences of scarcity should not be underestimated--especially when about half the world's population depends directly on local renewables for their day-to-day well-being. In the next decades, he writes, growing scarcities will affect billions of people with unprecedented severity and at an unparalleled scale and pace. Clearly written and forcefully argued, this book will become the standard work on the complex relationship between environmental scarcities and human violence.
The horrible events that took place in Rwanda in 1994 raise serious questions for all observers of Africa in general and Rwanda in particular. The many explanations of the tragedy that have been advanced fall into two basic schools. The first holds up Rwanda, a small, landlocked, predominantly agricultural country with the highest population density in Africa, as a prime example of the disastrous consequences of ecological resource scarcity. It labels the millions of refugees still in Zaire as "environmental refugees" and deems the whole conflict a result of "demographic entrapment".1 The second attributes the Rwandan genocide exclusively to processes of ethnic identity and political strife.2 Proponents of each of these schools tend to seek no further than their own preferred causation and remain uninterested in the ideas of the other.
This article examines the evolution of security studies, focusing on recent developments in the field. It provides a survey of the field, a guide to the current research agenda, and some practical lessons for managing the field in the years ahead. Security studies remains an interdisciplinary enterprise, but its earlier preoccupation with nuclear issues has broadened to include topics such as grand strategy, conventional warfare, and the domestic sources of international conflict, among others. Work in the field is increasingly rigorous and theoretically inclined, which reflects the marriage between security studies and social science and its improved standing within the academic world. Because national security will remain a problem for states and because an independent scholarly community contributes to effective public policy in this area, the renaissance of security studies is an important positive development for the field of international relations.