Climate change a global security threat, says strategic study

Published: April 16, 2010 at 4:04 PM

LONDON, April 16 (UPI) -- Climate change is a global security threat that affluent nations as well as poor states need to confront at whatever cost to head off a catastrophic chain of events, the London International Institute for Strategic Studies said in a new study.

The IISS announced the new study as European air transport was hit by a volcanic eruption in Iceland that unleashed a huge pall of ash over the continent.

Airports shut and people reported breathing difficulties in some areas amid scientific predictions the volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in Iceland could continue to spew lava for months.

The IISS said, "Climate change has been a key factor in the rise and fall of societies and states from prehistory to the recent fighting in the Sudanese state of Darfur."

The institute said climate change "drives instability, conflict and collapse but also expansion and reorganization.

"The ways cultures have met the climate challenge provide object lessons for how the modern world can handle the new security threats posed by unprecedented global warming."

The IISS publication, "Climate Conflict: how global warming threatens security and what to do about it," was written by Jeffrey Mazo, managing editor of the institute's journal, Survival, and a research fellow for environmental security and science policy at the IISS.

The study looks at historical precedents and combines them with current thinking on state stability, internal conflict and state failure.

The approach, said the IISS, "suggests that overcoming cultural, social, political and economic barriers to successful adaptation to a changing climate is the most important factor in avoiding instability in a warming world."

It said, "The countries which will face increased risk are not necessarily the most fragile, nor those which will suffer the greatest physical effects of climate change."

The global security threat posed by fragile and failing states is well known, said the IISS.

"It is in the interest of the world's more affluent countries to take measures both to reduce the degree of global warming and climate change and to cushion the impact in those parts of the world where climate change will increase that threat," the IISS said.

"Neither course of action will be cheap, but inaction will be costlier."

Providing the right kind of assistance to the people and places where it is most needed was one way of reducing the cost. "Understanding how and why different societies respond to climate change is one way of making that possible," said the institute.

© 2010 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.