IT'S an issue noticeably absent from the US presidential election but climate change and its effects are felt everywhere. So pressing are the economic, social and environmental effects of climate change that there is an urgent need for the world's governments, particularly foreign ministries, to engage in climate diplomacy to avert future crises, warn representatives from Adelphi.
According to its website, Adelphi is a think tank that offers creative solutions and services on global environment and development challenges for policy, business and civil-society communities.
Here are the facts. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) noted that there is a 90 per cent probability that over the last 250 years, human activity has warmed the planet and that human-produced green gases have caused the observed increase in temperatures. The IPCC has predicted that by 2100, the planet's temperatures would have increased by 2 – 4 degrees celsius and that sea levels would rise by 18-59 cm. Additionally population and economic growth will accelerate climate change noted expert in Climate and Energy and International Environmental Policy and head of Climate and Energy Policies at Adelphi, Dennis Tanzler. While addressing the audience at the Learning Resource Centre at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine on October 18, Tanzler explained that by 2050, the world's population would reach nine billon, the world would urbanise further and rapidly, concentrating people in small areas – this would result in increasing demands on land, energy, food, water and other resources already affected by climate change.
But is climate change a conflict driver, a threat to international peace and security? The answer is yes, say experts from Adelphi.
"Climate change is a dangerous threat to human security,"said international consultant and adviser on climate change and co-founder and managing director of Adelphi, Alexander Carius.
Added Tanzler, "The impact of climate change may increase poverty, food and water insecurity and fuel conflicts and cause new territorial disputes."
Tanzler cited Darfur, Sudan as an example where climate change has been a contributing factor to bloody disputes.
"Access to resources including land and water is one of the driving factors of the conflict," he said.
Tanzler also noted that the melting of the Arctic ice due to global warming could present a new challenge. While it would open up new opportunites such as commercial development, oil extraction and global trade previously blocked by frozen sea, emerging out of this are potential sea border conflicts and new territorial disputes.
"Some of the security risks associated with climate change include water scarcity. Approximately one sixth of the world's population relies on glacier water or snow accumulations and will be affected by water scarcity and flooding as a result of glacial melting," said Tanzler.
"Global warming also poses a threat to food security," Tanzler referred to the 2008 global food crisis that triggered bread riots in numerous countries. Climate change would also result in overfishing and tensions over fishing zones and quotas.
A third risk associated with global warming is natural disasters.
"The 30-cm sea level rise by 2100 would affect 40 per cent of the Asian population. Deficits in disaster preparedness and management can provoke tensions within populations,"said Tanzler as he drew reference to the 2010 floods in Pakistan which led to riots because of the perceived insufficient response by the Pakistani government.
But what about the Caribbean? Climate change affects sea levels which will result in coastal erosion and salt water intrusion. It will also negatively affect the production of crops, rice, bananas and cocoa included. Natural disasters exacerbated by climate change will lead to flooding, damage to key infrastructure, such as was experienced in West Trinidad in the aftermath of heavy rainfall in August. Natural disasters will also have a detrimental effect on the tourism sector and lead to loss of life.
"With this in mind," said Carius, "there is an urgent need for climate diplomacy. But this is easier said than done." Carius noted that several foreign ministries have concentrated on other important issues such as drug trafficking and did not have climate change on their agendas.
Tanzler spoke of adaptation to climate change, or reducing the risks posed by the consequences of climate change. These included early warning systems and vulnerability assessment where natural, geographical and political information and assessments were integrated as the basis for informal decision-making, resulting in early action. Then there was sustainable energy policies and green economy where governments could build partnerships to design and implement policy measures such as low carbon and green growth strategies, renewable energy incentives or emission trading.