Climate change will aggravate social and political tensions for decades to come unless action is taken, according to a new report commissioned by the G7 governments.
The report, which was written by an international consortium, urges governments to make climate change a priority in foreign policy. It describes climate change as an “ultimate threat multiplier” that will aggravate fragile situation and may contribute to social upheaval and even violent conflict.
It also notes that even a robust international climate change agreement may not be enough to address the security threat alone. This is because of the “restless momentum of change” that means climate change impacts are already visible and will continue for decades to come.
This is not the first study to link climate change and conflict, several others have suggested rising global temperatures will act as a catalyst for tensions or amplify conflicts that are already there. Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, warned last year that conflict and social unrest could escalate if the world fails to address climate change and its impacts.
The G7 commissioned paper – A New Climate for Peace: Taking Action on Climate and Fragility Risks – identities seven threats to the stability of states and societies in the coming decades.
One of the risks outlined is water management, an area that is already causing conflict today. These tensions are set to rise as populations grow, increasing demand, while climate change impacts availability and quality. This, the study states, will likely increase the pressure on existing governance structures.
The six other threats highlighted in the report are local resource competition, livelihood insecurity and migration, extreme weather events and disasters, volatile food prices and provision, sea level rise and coastal degradation, and unintended effects of climate policies.
The report concludes that the best way to diminish the threats outlines is to mitigate climate change, however, because changes to the climate are already underway it adds steps must be taken to manage these risks today.
It states, “Single-sector interventions alone will not deal with compound risks. Integrating policies and programs in three key sectors – climate change adaption, development and humanitarian aid, and peace building – is necessary to help strengthen resilience to climate-fragility risks and realises significant co-benefits.”
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