Climate Change: A Looming Threat for National Security

Author Name: Adil Rana      23 Oct 2019     Society

Climate change has become a global threat and it is a policy challenge that is complex in nature. It is magnifying the existing inequalities between the developed and developing world. This difference will give rise to new threats and dangers, leading to a competition between states on resources, and a power struggle. Different states around the globe are initiating political debates regarding climate change to bring the focus on the increasing importance of this challenge. There is an urgent need to act to curtail all the harmful activities taking place in the world which are causing environmental degradation. The poor states which are likely to suffer the most by the impacts of climate change are unlikely to support the agenda and policies of climate change regulations because according to them it will worsen the existing inequalities in the international arena. Therefore, the global climate change regime is making attempts for the construction of the multilateral policies which are based on debates, participation, and agreements, but still, lack restricted regulatory mechanisms for the protection of the global atmosphere.
At the international level, there is a hegemony of the great powers and it creates injustice, forming hurdles in the way of the negotiation process. There is a difference in the financial status of states; few states can afford resourceful delegations to communicate with other states to participate in negotiations at any cost. Apart from the inter-state relations, the most effective is the intra-state circumstances in which the lack of effective democracy and participation in policy-making can result in the formation of policies that serve the interests of the most powerful groups. Before delving deeper into the global climate change regime and its political aspects, there is a need for understanding: what is climate? And what are the conditions which are causing climate change and resulting in environmental degradation? Climate is the weather conditions that prevail in an area for some time. While climate change is a usual change in the weather of a particular place, which can be either the amount of rainfall, intensity of cold, and increase in temperature, it can also be a change in the earth’s temperature. The change in earth’s temperature has increased by one degree Fahrenheit in the last 100 years, which is why the earth is getting warmer. Environmental scientists explain that the increase in the earth’s temperature is due to the rising levels of carbon dioxide and other gases in the atmosphere, which are leaving huge impacts on the global environment, such as rise in sea level, melting ice caps, heat waves, hurricanes, droughts, extreme storms, and rainfalls causing floods. While on the other hand, there is a huge impact on human health as climate change is giving birth to various kinds of fatal diseases.
The surroundings of the earth are covered by a membrane made up of gases. There are four to five layers around the earth, out of which the most important and stable one in which lies the ozone layer which mostly absorbs the ultraviolet rays of the sun, is the stratosphere. It has an amount of ozone (O3) concentrations which is comparatively smaller than other gases existing in the stratosphere. The main purpose of the ozone layer is to absorb the useful gases from solar radiation and reflect the harmful ones. But due to industrialization and technological advancements that have given birth to environmental pollution, there is an increase in the ratio of various viral and other diseases that are caused by air pollutants, become more harmful at high atmospheric pressure. The most tragic and important fact is that most of the states are developing or third world countries and their citizens are already struggling to achieve a good standard of life. While the developed states are trying their level best to compensate for the loss by initiating treaties and conventions for climate change policies and by buying the shares of greenhouse gas emissions of these developing states. Due to climate change, the level of water availability, variance in agricultural capabilities, and disruptions caused by extreme weather conditions can leave an impact on food production. This rate of change in the climate will determine the level of the impact on the security of food and will be testing the agricultural systems' capacity to adapt to the impacts of climate change. The usage of food crops for biofuels is pressurizing food supplies around the globe, resulting in the rise in the price of basic food items. Some developed states have initiated climate change adaptive systems that are effective and reasonable.
The basic science behind the warming caused by human activity is that it mainly includes the burning of fossil fuels and other agricultural practices, which leads to the increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and it reduces the amount of energy being lost in the space. And the increasing human population, which also includes advancements in agricultural patterns, is increasing the rate of human-produced warming.
Security sector experts identify climate change as a significant risk in three ways. Firstly, climate change can influence a country’s security environment by exacerbating economic and political problems within and between countries. Secondly, it can alter the types of roles and missions militaries need to undertake. For example, increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and the resulting destruction will place more pressure on militaries to provide disaster relief and humanitarian assistance. Finally, climate change can limit military readiness and burden the military before it moves into action. Military preparedness may be eroded through the impact that climate change is likely to have on defence infrastructure through sea-level rise, extreme heat, storm surges and drought.
There is a link between sustainable development and environmental changes caused by climate change. At different levels, climate change can become a threat to national security in different manners. Water scarcity is increasing, land productivity is decreasing, and climate change is worsening these threats. Climate change is inevitable and is a prospective 'threat multiplier' for the national security of any state in the world.


Adil Rana is an M.Phil Scholar and works as Researcher at Center for Aerospace and Security Studies, Rawalpindi, Pakistan. His areas of interest include the Politics of South East Asia, Middle East, Environmental Issues and Warfare Strategies.