Categories
Environment Humanitarian Issues

Military Leaders: Climate Change, Energy, National Security Are Inextricably Linked

The world facing climate change. Image: geralt/Pixabay

This article was originally published by New Security Beat on 9 November, 2015.

In the midst of a minefield on day two of Desert Storm Task Force Ripper, Marine Corps Operations Officer Richard Zilmer stepped out of his armored personnel carrier, squinted up at the sky, and saw nothing but black from horizon to horizon. Iraqi forces, trying desperately to blunt the attack of coalition armies, had set fire to hundreds of Kuwaiti oil wells and oil-filled trenches.

“The sun was a little white ball about the size of a ping-pong ball that you could look up at directly,” Zilmer, now a retired lieutenant general, said at the Wilson Center on October 21. “This was surreal to about the third power…truly for me a moment that I’ll never forget.”

He wondered, does anyone know we’re here? Or know why we’re here? The puzzle pieces linking energy and national security started to shift into place.

Categories
Foreign policy

Ten Quick Steps to Reset Canadian Foreign Policy

Justin Trudeau at Canada 2020 on June 22, 2015, speaking on rebuilding the Canada-US relationship. Image: Canada 2020/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Centre for International Policy Studies on 20 October, 2015.

Foreign policy rarely becomes a matter of electoral debate in Canada. But this time was different. The refugee crisis in Europe, trade negotiation deadlines, and Canada’s involvement in the Syria conflict — all pushed foreign policy under the electoral microscope for significant parts of the campaign. The decision of the three main party leaders to participate in a two-hour debate dedicated to foreign policy brought added attention.

Categories
International Relations Environment Development

High Stakes: Understanding Risk and Why This Year’s Climate Negotiations Are So Important

Arctic ice sea. Image: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Flickr

This article was originally published on 6 April 2015 by New Security Beat, the blog of the Environmental Change and Security Program (ECSP) at the Wilson Center.

Expectations for the upcoming UN climate change summit in Paris are higher than they’ve been in years. Experts expect it will be the best chance to achieve a binding, universal agreement to limit carbon emissions. But the conference is still not getting the attention it deserves from policymakers and the public, given the stakes – and not just for the environment but for the international system writ large, said Nick Mabey, founding director and chief executive of the UK-based environmental NGO E3G at the Wilson Center on February 12.

Categories
International Relations Environment

Think Again Before Exploiting the Arctic’s Resources – Where’s the Infrastructure?

ARCTIC OCEAN – The Canadian Coast Guard
Photo: U.S. Geological Survey/flickr.

Climate change is not an ideology, as some would have us believe – it is an existential fact.  Greenland’s ice cap is melting up to four times faster than it was two decades ago, and if current predictions hold true, by mid-century the Arctic’s seas will be navigable in the summertime. This probability may frighten climate change specialists, but it is good news to those who want to access the High North’s once inaccessible resources (oil, minerals and gas), or to rely upon its shorter and therefore cheaper shipping routes. Indeed, the burgeoning interest of governments and investors in the Arctic guarantees that for better (economic development) and worse (oil spills, shipping accidents, and cultural dislocation), the human footprint will grow exponentially in the region. For those who are ready to kick-start this 21st century ‘gold rush,’ however, here’s an inconvenient question – where’s the infrastructure that is going to support it?

First, let’s begin by stating the obvious – compared to the rest of the world, the broader Arctic region still has almost no infrastructure and what little exists is expensive. Canada’s per-capita transport and communications costs, for example, are 36% higher in the Northwest Territories and 160% higher in Nunavut than in the country as a whole. These costs, driven as they are by the still-extreme climate and extended transport routes, will continue to turn near- and mid-term expectations of large-scale wealth and development into fool’s gold.

Categories
Security Environment

Climate Change Will Bring More Surprises to Security Community: Interview with Marc Levy

SH-60F Sea Hawk helicopter
An SH-60F Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 14, flies around the Bangkok area with members of the humanitarian assessment survey team and the Royal Thai Armed Forces to assess the damage caused by flooding. Photo: /Wikimedia Commons

There are “overwhelmingly strong reasons” to believe that climate change is already triggering security problems, said Marc Levy, a climate scientist and Deputy Director of the Center for International Earth Science Information Network at Columbia University.

Mr. Levy said if things are this bad already, it’s probably going to get worse, and quickly. “The next decade is probably going to experience more cases of climate change triggering security breakdowns.”