International Relations and National Security

Climate change has the potential to disrupt international relations and raise security challenges through impacts on specific assets and resources. For example, loss of Arctic sea ice will increase the value of Arctic navigation routes. The legal status of the Northwest Passage in particular has long been contested, but the prospect of it becoming more widely usable raises the stakes substantially. Another possible disruption to international relations is the prospect of substantial mineral reserves under the Arctic Ocean. Climate change will also affect shorelines and in some cases "exclusive economic zones" and baselines used for projecting national boundaries seaward. Boundaries that could be affected include those in the South China Sea and between the United States and Cuba. Climate-related changes in precipitation and the hydro-logic cycle will likely result in changes in flow regimes in international river systems, and this raises the possibility of challenges to interstate relationships, even conflict, over shared water resources. Finally, climate-related changes in food supply and sea level rise-related land losses could potentially result in intra- and interstate migration and refugee-related conflicts.

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