Climate changes are part of a set of interacting stresses that affect human welfare. Climate change may decrease human security and increase risks of domestic and international conflict in many parts of the world over the next several decades. The fact that climate change impacts may increase the probability of conflict has become a prominent argument for considering climate change in security analyses (e.g., Busby, 2007; Dalby, 2009; DOD, 2010).
As global changes and their potential consequences are becoming more evident, both in the United States and internationally, and as the global sustainability agenda has expanded (Brundtland, 1987; UN, 2009), the security agenda has been broadened (Sorensen, 1990). For example, a 1994 United (UNDP) report argued:
The concept of security has for too long been interpreted narrowly: as security of territory from external aggression, or as protection of national interest in foreign policy or as global security from the threat of a nuclear holocaust. It has been related more to nation-states than to people (UNDP, 1994).
As threats associated with sustainable human development and global environmental changes became more prominent, UNDP's formulation of human security began to include "safety from such chronic threats as hunger, disease, and repression, [as well as] protection from sudden and hurtful disruptions in the patterns of daily life—whether in homes, in jobs or in communities" (UNDP, 1994). The concept of "human security" continues to gain prominence in both academic and policy arenas and is expected to be featured in the forthcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (IPCC, 2009).
While these developments have been intended to encourage an integrative conception of security and threats that reflect the lived realities that individuals and communities face, there are still multiple ways of thinking about human security and no agreement on a policy agenda (Dalby, 2009). Most scholars understand human security as some combination of freedom from fear, want, harm, and violence. To some it is simply the converse of "vulnerability" (e.g., Barnett, 2001; Brauch, 2005; Dalby, 2009; Khagram and Ali, 2006; O'Brien et al., 2009). The International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP) core project on Global Environmental Change and Human Security has stressed the complementary nature of security threats and people's capacity to respond, focusing on "the ways that environmental changes contribute to (or exacerbate) pervasive threats and critical situations, while at the same time undermining the capacity to respond to these threats" (IHDP, 2009).
Human security scholars have examined the potential impacts of many types of environmental change, including food and water security, disaster vulnerability, land use and land degradation, urbanization and migration, the spread of infectious disease, and the associated challenges of building sustainable economic pathways out of poverty and deprivation. Insecurity can result, for example, when infrastructure developments (such as hydroelectric dams) put in place to meet other needs result in dislocations and displacements (Khagram, 2004), or as a negative consequence of rapid urbanization and the associated pollution, intergroup struggles, and crime (Evans, 2002). Through myriad interregional and international linkages, via political, economic, financial, sociocultural, military, public health, and environmental systems, human insecurities in one part of the world will affect the security of communities and economies in other parts (e.g., Adger et al., 2009b).
Research on human security and the environment has highlighted issues of equity, fairness, and human dignity, and especially the condition of women, because interacting socioeconomic and environmental stresses are experienced most severely by those who are most vulnerable (e.g., Adger et al., 2006; O'Brien et al., 2008). Related research has helped advance understanding of barriers and limits to adaptation (e.g., Adger et al., 2009b). Efforts are currently under way to synthesize a 10-year research effort on Global Environmental Change and Human Security (IHDP, 2009). Already this effort has identified conditions needed to maintain or restore human security, including effective governance systems, healthy and resilient ecosystems, comprehensive and sustained disaster risk-management efforts, empowerment of individuals and local institutions, and supportive values. Existing scientific insight is available, and further use-inspired social science research is needed, to inform the establishment of international mechanisms for effective, verifiable, accountable, and just efforts to limit and adapt to climate change. Such mechanisms have been found to be critical to the ability of communities anywhere to pursue sustainable livelihoods, meet fundamental human needs, secure human rights, and ultimately to ensure that climate change does not disrupt the natural environment so severely that it can no longer support the adequate and safe provision of ecosystem goods and services essential to human life and well-being (MEA, 2005).
Was this article helpful?