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Whither the research agenda for environmental security?

Salivoli
photo credit: Laurina

In preparing my lectures for this week (in the course POLI 375 Global Environmental Politics), I found myself at a loss. While I am well immersed in the academic literature, reading every issue of the associated journals in the discipline (Global Environmental Politics and International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics), I couldn’t find one single short piece that described to me (and obviously to my students) the state of the research agenda in environmental security.

The work of Simon Dalby, Geoff and Dave Dabelko, Thomas Homer-Dixon and a number of other scholars is focused on environmental security. And while the definitional issue seems to have been left behind in the conversation, I still find that scholars have difficulties in determining what exactly encompasses environmental security.

Recent work by Joshua Busby has focused on demonstrating the linkages between climate change and international security. This link is particularly visible because of the obvious nexus between vulnerability to climate change in nations and bad governance/past conflict. The above mentioned negative conditions have made these countries even more vulnerable. Responding to disasters thus becomes a challenge.

In my primary research field (water), the concept of water security has been at the forefront of academic discussions, but I ponder whether the field of environmental security can afford to continue to focus on “security in resource X or Y” rather than examining the inextricable linkages between environmental degradation and international security/foreign policy.

So I ponder, where is the debate going in the field of global environmental security? Is it going to continue in the two sub-fields (interconnected) of environmental refugees and climate-security? I wrote this blog entry to help set the stage for an online conversation between me, my students in the course, and potentially other research colleagues in the field. Comments, as always, appreciated.

Posted in climate change, climate policy, teaching.


32 Responses

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  1. Daniel Poppe says

    I think we’ll start to see an increase in the attention paid to environmental refugees as instances of climate change disaster grow. I would be very surprised however to see an increase in attention to climate security as a whole simply because the issues of climate security vary by nation. Climate security issues in Canada don’t really involve water scarcity the way they do in parts of Africa and nations seeing high levels of desertification. I would not expect to see a cohesive, international push towards combating climate security issues.

  2. Matthew Paterson says

    On environmental/climate refugees, there’s a paper just published by Frank Biermann in Global Environmental Politics (10, 2) on how the international system might deal with this question – choices between going with the existing refugee regime or using the climate regime itself, and so on. It’s not conceptualised as environmental security but clearly it’s a question of how the international system deals with the individual level vulnerabilities produced by climate change.

    More generally, I can’t say I know of a really good recent survey article, but I know when I teach it I try to combine something that looks at ‘whether or not it is a security issue’ (Homer-Dixon, Dabelko, Matthews, etc), with ‘what is at stake in framing it as a security issue’ (Dalby, Barnett, Deudney), and ‘how do actors securitise environmental change’ (Copenhagen school, on climate, Stripple, and perhaps a look at a securitising moment – the Pentagon report, inconvenient truth).
    Mat

  3. Maia says

    It seems one of the primary dilemmas of environmental security is, like many environmental issues, the divide between the global north and the global south. As Daniel mentions security issues vary between countries and unfortunately the states and areas that bear the brunt of climate change problems are not those perpetrating them. Ideally it is imperative for these states to take initiative and combat these issues, however I expect that action will not be taken until states feel directly that their security is threatened. This may be both pessimistic and realist assumption but given recent patterns I think it is most realistic.

    Two interesting areas which I see increasing attention moving toward are the Arctic and the link between military and environmental security. I see the Arctic as a definite hot spot where countries of the North are going to be forced to confront directly the issues of climate change and their involvement in it at a state level. Another interesting point in Barnetts 2003 article, in which he discusses the military’s influence on emissions and environmental degradation. Hence it is evident that this security issue takes on different forms than traditional security.

  4. Henry Gordon-Smith says

    It is true that environmental security research could go in many directions but one thing is for certain, it challenges the traditional concepts of security studies. For example, the climate danger does not directly correlate to issues of greed and grievance (collier) but still presents a risk to global security. I think that what we may find in the future is that environmental security will take on a sort of hybrid role as it is a non-traditional security threat that could easily in the next few decades become a traditional one. The case of climate refugees is one example of this. If Bangladesh becomes victim to rising sea levels and a minimal estimate of 30-50million people lose their homes, what pressures will that put on the already overstretched India? The climate threat in this case could prove to be a spark for some more traditional security concerns and with realism still dominating International Relations the likely behaviour of nations is disconcerting. Perhaps the historical conflict between India and Pakistan could intensify, or even more likely, a domestic conflict erupt. In the case of Bangladesh, the potential pressure on the economy of India could lead to extreme heights in food prices and scarcity. Scarcity, historically has been one of the most structural sound arguments in security studies. Where there is scarcity, there is likely to be conflict. So, in conclusion, I don’t think that the research will take on some irrational predictive capacity but rather an in depth analysis of the environmental climate and the political climate of certain areas of concern and what factors make an area an environmental security concern. This is just a brief exploration of the issue and I feel that there are many other examples and options for the future of environmental security.

  5. Christina says

    I agree that the current traditional concept of security must progress to encompass environmental factors. Even if the literature is limited at this point I forsee it increasing dramatically in the near future. If you recall at the beginning of this class when everyone was asked why they decided to take it many people cited the study environmental security as their motivation. The interest is definitely there and it is increasing.

    Currently the largest inadequacy I see in governmental systems is the lack of recognition for environmental refugees. Just recently scientist in India have published information about an island that has vanished beneath the ocean waters. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8584665.stm). Small island countries like the Marshall Islands continually experience national state of emergencies because ocean waves cause flooding leading to the evacuation of hundreds of people.

    Rather than be reactionary countries should be proactive and develop environmental refugee plans for immigration agencies now. Through developing these plans I think officials will come to greater understanding of the complexity of this issue and the linkages between climate change and environmental security. Whether academics or people influence politicians to take a greater interest in this issue, or vice versa, I believe it will be a prominent topic in the future.

  6. Niki Ruppel says

    I agree with Christina that there needs to be international recognition of environmental refugees. The next several decades are going to witness individuals being forced to migrate due to increasing water levels, desertification, glacier run-offs changing, etc. These individuals are likely going to migrate to cities that don’t have sufficient carrying capacity for the influx of migrants. While states are hesitant to allow a greater number of individuals to claim refugee status, something has to be done.
    I think Dalby is correct is supporting a re-orientation of thought. The concept of security has changed. It is for that reason that the notion of realism is becoming less and less applicable to modern society. For many individuals and communities security is now directly correlated with environmental change. Since climate change is a global problem is needs a global solution.

  7. Niki Ruppel says

    I also think an important questions that needs to be raised is the security of who? Destroying the Amazon is threatening the livelihood of many tribes just as an oil pipeline through Northern Canada is threatening the security of many Aboriginal communities.

  8. Rosie Pidcock says

    The current debate appears to recognize that security in the sense of the environment differs from the traditional state view. However, as I was reminded by reading a dated (1997) article written by Stephen Toope and his colleague Jutta Brunee (Environmental Security and Freshwater Resources: Ecosystem Regime Building – http://www.jstor.org/stable/2954139), being “secure” in the sense of the environment implies the need for an ecological balance. Given the amount of environmental degradation that has occured, proactive restorative measures need to be taken to address this. It is unclear whether or not the current debate addresses this, as it seems to be more focused on reactionary measures such as dealing with resource conflicts, or the fate of climate refugees. Securing resources ensures social and economic security, however the link to environmental security is unclear. In fact, resource extraction more often than not detracts from “environmental security” in the sense of ecological balance.

    The term “environmental security” has been used increasingly to try and elevate the issue to one of greater importance so that it receives policy attention from high ranking officials (as we discussed in class today). Overall, I think the term causes a lot of confusion and the debate would better off reframed as “environmental sustainability” – how can nations work towards ensuring that the environment remains a safe, clean, decent place to live long into the future, as opposed to “how can we gain control of resources and then exploit them for the sake of economic benefit and for the purpose of remaining “secure” “. As Dalton elaborates on in his article, we need to redefine economic security using resources that endure, as opposed to being divvied up.
    I think the debate on environmental security is headed towards which vehicles could potentially support/replace (?) the nation-state in addressing issues of a transboundary nature and furthermore, how these vehicles can promote the ethic of endurance and conservation as opposed to the need for constant control/use. One thought is the creation of a new business model that recognizes how to incorporate scarcity in decision making (scarcity could be of resources like oil or timber, but also the scarcity of a climate that is not catastrophic for example). If decisions begin to be made through the lens of the long term, as opposed to through the lens of short term gain, there may be progress towards the elusive concept of “environmental security” that the debate is striving to define.

  9. Guida says

    Human security remains a complex topic. It is effected by actions in every sphere; social, political, and economic and can be applied to a range of actors. Human security addresses issues related to security for whom, and by whom. With the ensuing debate on climate refugees, the current paradigm will need to accommodate the threat this instability poses to the international system (potential mass movements of people, civil unrest, increased aid reliance, suffering of millions). If we accept that the current rate environmental degradation will expand the number of environmental refugees, we must be proactive in reducing the amount of environmental refugees as well as creating avenues of support for these refugees. Aside from climate refugees, I feel other security issues are easily forgotten. Food security is a huge international dilemma which will only be exacerbated through the decrease in arable land, water for irrigation, and increase in sporadic weather patterns.

    Once environmental degradation is seen as a threat to “homeland security” nations will need to address these problems. The US Army is being extremely proactive, and are attempting to decrease their carbon footprint by more than any country has ever been able to achieve. See the following: (http://webberenergyblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/21/armed-forces-dependence-on-fossil-fuels/ ) (http://www.army.mil/-news/2010/03/17/35975-arra-corps-parks-in-california-going-solar/) .They realize the security threat environmental degradation poses, and are concerned with stable supplies of energy and the need to increase self sufficiency in the face of an unstable and volatile international energy market. The military often wields the largest carbon footprint, but the US armed forces are showing innovation, which exemplifies the flexibility of human security, and a hopeful shift in the human security paradigm.

  10. Aaron L says

    The definition of “global environmental security” is broader than the emphasis on environmental refugees and climate-security. In this sense, I agree with Maia’s emphasis on the global North and global South. Due to socioeconomic and political differences, developed versus developing nations’ definitions of “environmental security” will vary.

    I argue that in an industrialized state like the United States, issues such as energy security takes precedence over “traditional” predicaments like environmental refugees. Energy security relates to environmental security because it involves the degradation of the domestic environment to achieve greater national security and to weaken the leverage of foreign states. The importance of energy security is evident in the political atmosphere of the US. For example, in the 2008 presidential election, energy security was a wedge issue. Palin used rhetoric such as “energy independence” to assert that America needed to have resource autonomy from countries who “don’t like [America] very much.” The Obama-Biden ticket, in contrast, opposed the expansion of domestic drilling in a conservationist approach (although he has since reversed this position). During this election period, there were also significant number of commercials on television advocating for “energy independence” by exploring domestic drilling as well as green alternatives like wind energy.

    This demonstrates how energy concerns play an important role in the United States, which is uniquely different from the environmental security issues of the global South. This is due to the fact that industrialized countries have different socioeconomic atmospheres than non-industrialized countries, and thus will have different conceptions. Therefore, I think environmental security encompasses a broader range of issues beyond the traditional definition of refugees and climate-security. This makes consensus on what constitutes “global environment security” difficult to achieve.

  11. Hilary Norris says

    Overcoming the conflict between a state-centric definition of “security” and the transnational nature of environmental problems will continue to be a challenge in the environmental security debate. States are the primary actors in the system in which our world is structured right now, and therefore state action will be required to address issues of environmental security. However, this poses several challenges, which some of the other comments have touched upon: who defines “environmental insecurity”? As problems related to climate change manifest in different ways all over the world, this will have different definitions in different states. Additionally, who is responsible? Using the example of Bangladesh, is it the state of Bangladesh that is responsible for rising sea levels within its borders? And if not, then who, and how are they to be held accountable? Going further, to what extent is Bangladesh responsible to help its citizens deal with a problem that it did not cause? As one of the more heavily polluting nations in the world, is Canada responsible for rising sea levels in Bangladesh? Also, to what extent should states be responsible for preventing extreme environmental degradation in other areas? If the world depends on the Amazon rainforest to “sink” carbon, how directly may other states act to ensure that it is protected?
    On a bit of a side note, and touching on Nikki and Aaron’s points in particular, it is important not to forget that environmental security is not only a transnational issue, but a regional one as well. State actions within their own territories can cause environmental instability for their own populations. This is particularly relevant in issues of energy security, where large-scale energy projects can threaten the security of domestic populations. Nikki mentioned how oil extraction threatens Aboriginal communities in Northern Canada, and large-scale hydroelectric dams that cause the displacement of local populations is another example of this. Also, as Aaron pointed out, energy insecurity does not necessarily lead to greater protection of environmental security. One of US President Ford’s solutions to the 1970’s oil embargo was to increase the use of coal as an energy source, in order to increase energy independence. It will be interesting to see how “energy security” and “environmental security” interact, as they do not necessarily follow the same directions.

  12. Denise says

    In the debate over global environmental security, the two sub-fields should be linked, but whether this successfully happens (and when it happens), is still up in the air. I feel that especially with the Arctic states, however, there will be an increased move to link, and acknowledge the interconnectedness of environmental refugees and climate security simply because climate change and climate security is rapidly increasing the national and international security threats. The arcticle referenced Brown’s claim that the Arctic is especially vulnerable to climate change. The effects of this will have profound consequences for national and international security. Climate and environmental security is manifest predominantly in the rapidly changing Arctic environment (loss of sea ice, melting permafrost etc.), and this can (and very likely will) become a national and international security threat. This is simply because of the fact that melting sea ice increases the potential for transportation and movement of people, goods, etc. through the Arctic. This creates the opportunity for sub-state activity, illegal migration. Also, climate change has already shown to be changing the way of life for the indigenous populations of the North, creating a human security issue. In this way it seems that the concept of security must necessarily be broadened in light of the effects of climate change.

  13. Akari says

    The world has reached a point where a complete separation of the two concepts is not feasible. That there is a correlation between the two is undeniable and must be recognized; however, researchers must remain cautious and steer away from drawing rash and rigid conclusions of causality between elements of environmental degradation and security issues. Moreover, rather than merely focusing on the negative relationship between degradation and conflict as is often the trend and the vicious cycle that traps them, research should also seek to analyse the ways in which protection and peace can be better achieved by means of linking security and the environment. Acknowledging ways in which constructive and preventative efforts in one field can be strengthened or reinforced by the other may provide an important component in pre-emptive strategies rather than simply responding and alleviating symptoms of crises after they have taken place. Within the field of political science, the understanding of security has undergone a significant change. Dalby, accurately, points out that realism no longer lays appropriate theoretical foundation for solving global issues. National governments continue to play central roles in discussions on environment/security, but modern society appears to be gradually moving away from an emphasis on state-centric, traditional notions of security to human security. Accordingly, the growing participation and influence of non-state actors on political issues must be recognized. Finally, as many cases are highly localized or specific to a particular region, each with a unique set of factors, actors, and ‘layers of complexities’, I am unsure as to whether it is possible to develop any overarching framework and how such a broad framework can effectively be applied globally.

  14. Miguel says

    Regarding the linkage between the environment and traditional conceptions of security, I believe it would be a mistake to conceive of the two in a singular, all encompassing framework. For the sake of analysis, the environment-security link needs to be broken down and examined in its separate fields (i.e. security and water rights, security and environmentally-forced migration, security and climate change, etc). I realize that this may sacrifice some of the applicability of the conclusions drawn, but we need to understand that not all environmental issues affect the security paradigm in the same way.
    For instance, can we reasonably expect to find a similar relationship between civil society and government actors in a water rights conflict (e.g. the “water wars” in Cochabamba, Bolivia) and between state actors in a sovereignty dispute brought to the forefront by a climate crisis (e.g. Canadian sovereignty and the NW passage in light of global warming)? While both are “security” issues, they require fundamentally different approaches and encompass different spheres of security. It is within these cleavages that the traditional “state-centric” model breaks down and the need for new approaches becomes apparent. What I advocate is that each sub-field within the term “environment” be examined with an appropriate sub-framework contained within the term “security”. For example, the state-centric model is particularly effective when looking at the Arctic sovereignty issue. Conversely, the human security paradigm can be illustrative when used to analyze the phenomenon of climate refugees. To me, it’s a matter of matching proper analytical and policy tools to appropriate environmental-security issues. However, to simply conceive of each and every security issue as having an environmental dimension (and vice versa) is not only stating the obvious, but also neglecting to move beyond it.

    Some scholarship in the field of resource conflicts and human security has already begun to highlight the differences concealed in what was previously thought to be a straightforward relationship (the well-known “resource curse” hypothesis that natural resources cause conflict). In his 2008 article, Phillipe Le Billon argues for an extended typology of resource wars and the relationships of resources to the conflict (http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00045600801922422). In doing so, he differentiates between resources that fuel conflict and resources that beget conflict. This type of specific, in-depth analysis into the nature of the relationship between an environmental issue and its respective security dimension is, in my opinion, the best chance we have of understanding and addressing the environmental security field as a whole.

  15. Hannah E says

    Reading the article by Dalby, as well as the above the comments reaffirms for me that the realm of environmental security is a complex, multi-faceted, and very important one. As with many of the issues we have discussed in class, it seems that the most ideal way to broach the subject would be with the formation of a global environmental governing body, though the consensus seems to be that such an institution is not in the foreseeable future. To echo previous statements, one of the bigger hurdles in environmental security is the ever-sidening gap between the Global North and Global South. It is widely accepted, at least based on the readings we have done in this class and the discussions that have followed, that the North is to blame for many of the environmental issues present around the globe. I have to agree with Maia and say that it is unlikely that states in the North will take action unless they feel that their security is threatened. Additionally, Hilary makes a good point about who should be responsible for the “victims” of environmental degradation and weakened security. Even if we we able to accurately determine which states “caused” or contributed in large part to a specific environmental issue, in every region or even community in which it arose, there would be argument regarding who should take responsibility. All global issues are interconnected, and environmental issues most of all. This seems like a simple statement, but acknowledging this itself seems to threaten states’ sovereignty, which is why action is unlikely at the state level until a real security threat is felt.

  16. Kyla Kaun says

    I agree with Miguel in that I think that to ensure that to truly understand the relationship between environmental issues and security they must be examined individually. However, I think that the future of global environmental security will be determined by how seriously issues are addressed from the outset. The more servere the issues become the greater its implications on global security, particularly with environmental refugees. Unfortunately,I am not optimistic that the international community will be able to switch from a reactive to a proactive position. If we continue to use the environment, only addressing the damage instead of preventing it, security issues will continue to grow.

  17. Madison says

    Environmental change poses a threat to the ecosystem and to human wellbeing, which transcends individual states and conceptions of national security. The neorealist focus on safeguarding the values of a state from military threats emanating from outside its borders is, therefore, no longer adequate as a means of understanding what is to be secured, from what threats, and by what means. As the assumptions and institutions that have governed international relations in the postwar era are a poor fit with these new realities, there is a rising demand for a redefinition of what constitutes national security. While scholars making such demands accept the neorealist claim that security is reducible to an objective referent and set of threats, they seek to reorient security studies by the use of natural sciences to demonstrate that environmental degradation represents an immediate threat to human wellbeing. By recognizing that what is being threatened is not an abstraction like the state, but the security of individuals and species, a different set of priorities becomes apparent (Krause, Keith. 1996; Broadening the Agenda of Security Studies: Politics and Methods. Mershon international Studies Review 40, no.2, pgs. 229-254). The constraints imposed by traditional conventional thought have limited the conceptions of security and the institutions and policies intended to provide security. These calls to redefine security, however, have met resistance primarily because they do not conform to the methodological and political foundations underlying the neorealist view of security. Levy (1995; “Is the Environment a National Security Issue?” International Security 20, no. 2, pgs.35-42) argues that the attempt to make the environment a security issue is marked more by a desire to heighten the political profile of environmental concerns by placing them within the rhetoric of security than by any sustainable status as security issues. Further, Buzan, Waever and Wilde (1998; Security: A New Framework For Analysis. U.S.: Lynne Rienner Publishers) argue that security is a self-referential practice – an issue becomes a security issue not necessarily because a real existential threat exists but because the issue is presented as a threat. However, when human security is put at the heart of the agenda there will be a different set of priorities. National interest and sovereignty are increasingly being considered less important than the wellbeing of individuals.

  18. David Arras says

    I believe that a lot of the forthcoming debate in global environmental security will be concerned with further integrating and reconciling the formally separate fields of “security” and the “environment” into the single field of “global environmental security.’ Though some maintain that this field currently exists, I’m not sure if it does. In a lot of ways Dalby’s article is about trying to reconcile these two fields. His basic argument is, after all, that applying a very realist/security in the traditional sense, to the environment won’t really work because realism doesn’t take into consideration the actions of sub national actors, who do in fact have huge influence over the environment.

    In the near future I can see a lot of articles being very similar to Dalby’s, essentially advocating for a new approach to be taken to the environment and security. However, in the long term, after “global environmental security” is sufficiently established as a field of study, I can see a lot of the research shifting to studying very real and practical problems. For example, the following questions might be tackled: Who defines an environmental refugee and based on what criteria? How can the definition of security be expanded to “environmental security” without causing massive/excessive refugee claims? What obligations do recipient states have to environmental refugees? Who is responsible for the provision of environmental security (if anyone)?

  19. Frankie Nash says

    As the end of our term comes to a close I am struck by the complexity that is “global environmental security”, as well as feeling incredibly worried that most Canadians seem to disregard the notion of water shortage because of the myth that, as Canadians, we have a seemingly endless supply of water.
    I believe that Canadians need to be charged more for water (similar perhaps to the prices seen in Germany), because that would immediately teach Canadians that water is not to be taken for granted.
    I also think (like Maia) that global environmental security exacerbates the North and South divide, and as such, Canada has a certain responsibility for taking action as one of the moar affluent countries in the global North. Perhaps some (if not all) of the profits from charging more for water could go towards improving water shortages in developing countries, or into helping environmental refugees.

  20. Rohit says

    So far the trend has been that nations who control the flow of natural resources gain greater strategic advantage with regards to furthering their national interests. Furthermore, it is also accepted that this comes part and parcel with an undermined security agenda for these nations. At this point it would be naïve to neglect how fragile the Arctic’s environment and ecosystem are. The melting Arctic sea is going to radically alter the geopolitics of the region, and we need to be prepared to deal with the new security threats it will bring. This will be a new domain of policy and law. As such we need to move beyond the traditional concepts of security, which is grounded in prioritizing national interest over the environment, towards understanding our impact at the regional and global level. Research and policy needs to focus on how the issues of the environment and security are merging towards, and how best to foster more effective multilateral cooperation to deal with these growingly trans-border security risks. As such, academics should move beyond simply criticizing the status-quo and work towards advising governments on how to implement sustainable and effective strategies to minimize our impacts upon the environment.

  21. Sean Tessarolo says

    Despite the need to address climate security and environmental refugees within the same framework I do not see this occurring in the near future. Climate security, with regards to threats to human security resulting from anthropogenically induced climate change, will impact states with varying severity across the globe. Therefore, climate security in one region will consist of a whole different swath of issues than in another region. Climate refugees are the result of climate change. However, as with current refugee policies around the world there are protectionist attitudes which will carry over into the climate refugee issue. If Bangladesh were to see a mass outward movement of climate refugees these individuals would most likely have no choice but a relatively unaccepting India to take refuge. This is because climate refugees on the other side of the planet will find it exceedingly difficult to reach wealthier countries due to movement barriers (visa restrictions, geographic proximity). Therefore, UN refugee mandated intakes for developed nations will lag behind the actual need for refugee uptake because accepting refugees is subject to much protectionism at the state level. The differing impacts felt by climate change and climate refugees around the world will prevent global action and a meaningful merging of the discourse.

  22. Bal G says

    I think that the two sub-fields of environmental refugees and climate security are going to continue to be the way they are. The only way I see any climate security issues uniting is from a large global catastrophe that effects first world nations. It would only be then that nations would consider uniting climate security issues, since first world nations would be the primary pushers for this.

  23. Amy says

    In the debate over global environmental security, the two sub-fields should be linked, but whether this successfully happens (and when it happens), is still up in the air. I feel that especially with the Arctic states, however, there will be an increased move to link, and acknowledge the interconnectedness of environmental refugees and climate security simply because climate change and climate security is rapidly increasing the national and international security threats. The arcticle referenced Brown’s claim that the Arctic is especially vulnerable to climate change. The effects of this will have profound consequences for national and international security. Climate and environmental security is manifest predominantly in the rapidly changing Arctic environment (loss of sea ice, melting permafrost etc.), and this can (and very likely will) become a national and international security threat. This is simply because of the fact that melting sea ice increases the potential for transportation and movement of people, goods, etc. through the Arctic. This creates the opportunity for sub-state activity, illegal migration. Also, climate change has already shown to be changing the way of life for the indigenous populations of the North, creating a human security issue. In this way it seems that the concept of security must necessarily be broadened in light of the effects of climate change.

  24. Marguerite says

    Personally, I do not believe that there is a distinction between environmental protection and security. In almost every academic field, there is no denying that the evolution of man, society and even security has been centered on the environment. The reality of the situation is we have to view environmental security in an anthropocentric way because since the evolution of man, if it has not been man vs. man, it has been man vs. nature. Our entire world and environment has been manipulated by humans for humans so it is therefore unrealistic to view the environment separate from human interests, and separate from the human interest of security. However rather than viewing environmental security under traditional forms of security, it should be focused more around human security. I firmly believe that future studies around environmental security should literally be framed as man vs. nature in order to move past state boundaries to encompass the entire human population. If we were to address the environment as the number one threat to human security there would be a greater consensus by states to create domestic and international policies to prevent further environmental degradation and work towards solving the problem of global warming.

  25. Imane Drissi says

    It is important to note how environmental issues have always been associated with the security of states because of the idea that environmental degradation and diminishing access to resources can cause conflicts and security threats. I think that the emerging issues of environmental refugees and climate security are becoming significant threats; however, the focus of environmental security will tend to overlook these threats because of how gradual the changes are. Security in the traditional sense deals with armed conflict and warfare. Therefore, environmental problems in this paradigm would only be analyzed as the cause of conflicts due to diminishing resources, which tends to gain more attention because of the perceived immediacy but also the perceived economic benefit of acquiring resources. Redefining security means that we need to also redefine how we act to counter these problems. Instead of violence and military action, there needs to be more use of global cooperation because “neither bloated military budgets nor highly sophisticated weapons systems can halt deforestation or solve the firewood crisis” (Collins 222).

  26. Zack Grimmer says

    I found Dalby’s stance towards environmental security to be a nuanced account of the relationship between environmental degradation and its effects upon the conception of security following the Cold War. The article seemed to echo a recurring theme of this course, namely that the traditional international relations perspectives towards sovereignty and (subsequently) security are in need of serious revision.The process of globalization has created an increasing level of interdependence and interconnectedness that challenges the very basics of traditional political analysis.

    Also, I feel that Dalby deserves credit for acknowledging that linking environmental security to close to the traditional view of security may serve to hamper the decentralization of political analysis and convert environmental efforts into a more militaristic endeavor. We should think ecologically, not physically!

  27. Julia says

    Another interesting point to consider is if the militray should be the ones directing policies in environmental security. Sould soldiers be directing missins for the protection of environmental refugees as well as implementations of conditions to which those persons wil l have access to migrate elsewhere.
    When thinking about security the military comes to mind along with national security, but how does one define environmental securtiy when their is not even and international environmental governmet body in place?

    I agree with Zack that we should be looking at this ecologically, and not physically, however the physical aspect is what is most evident!

  28. Annamaria says

    I don’t think there will be much change in the focus on environmental security beyond water scarcity, climate change and environmental refugees. There still seems to be a substantial part of the public that doesn’t connect environmental catastrophes with changing climate and is not aware of the processes that bring water to them. It would be difficult to create a political push on the issue of security without more public awareness on the matter.
    Furthermore it doesn’t seem logical to me, as someone focused on conservation biology, to start thinking about security because I would want to focus more on the causing factors, environmental degradation. It seems like acknowledging that nations will never change their behaviors enough to prevent disaster. However, the realist in me recognizes that this is likely true and a proactive rather than reactive response to environmental security is definitely in order. The cost governments will have to pay to deal with this issue in the future I cannot begin to imagine.

  29. Ryan Bell says

    It seems that if the international community begins looking at environmental degradation, particularly climate change, through the lens of security great injustices will be inevitably committed on the global South. The global south already has to bear the brunt of global climate change and as resources diminish, if environmental issues are framed in a security context, they will probably be forced to bear further consequences. This is because issues of security inherently end up with the interests of the state coming first. This type of thinking runs in contrast to notions of climate justice, being that the global north should take a leading role in combating environmental degradation as they are the ones who have, up till now, largely been responsible for it. If environmental issues and in turn access to resources become issues of security, the developed world will surely not focus on global equity and since they have many more resources already, they will inevitably win any confrontation for resources with developing countries further marginalizing instead of helping them as the concept of global climate justice suggests should be done.

  30. Luke Doupe-Smith says

    Considering that both sub-fields are interconnected it seems plausible that both will increase as climate change worsens. As climate change disasters increase in magnitude and regularity, one would expect the number of environmental refugees to increase as areas become uninhabitable. On the side of climate security, two things will occur. One, as disasters increase it will signal a need for greater environmental security signaling a need to tend to climate security for the sake of reducing disasters and effects of climate change. Second, as the number of environmental refugees increases the tendency for states to facilitate climate change mitigating policies is higher as well. Both due to immigration and due to the need for humanitarian efforts. Such humanitarian efforts would include preventative action towards the generation of more environmental refugees by giving attention to other environmental concerns, such as climate change.

  31. Carman says

    In recent history up to present the world has been watching borders relatively closing up to immigration and refugees – this is a huge human/individual security issue for environmental refugees. I agree with Dalby that we are still very much in a Cold War, state-centric traditional paradigm of security but more and more we are shifting to a new view of individual- or community- security. This shift NEEDS to happen to accommodate the movement of people on the planet due to environmental degradation, desertification, and other disasters forcing people to leave their land. Moreover, the security issue is not limited to the scope of migration issues to come, but even now environmental security and human security are inextricably linked as we see in Sudan, where desertification of the north was one of the motivators of the war that has ravaged that country.

    However, the leaders of the world are still very much stuck in the state-centric mindset of security, or else environmental issues would not be left on the back burner nor would the goals of treaties/regimes remain vague and ambiguous. Even in the face of stark, tragic, and devastating losses and disasters due to the condition/state of our environment, we are slow to heed mother natures’ warning. As for now, I am not sure what it will take for policy makers to truly wake up to the situation.

  32. Anne says

    Very interesting article

    So-called environmentally induced migration is multi-level problem. According to Essam El-Hinnawi definition form 1985 environmental refugees as ―those people who have been forced to leave their traditional habitat, temporarily or permanently, because of a marked environmental disruption (natural or triggered by people) that jeopardised their existence and/or seriously affected the quality of their life. The fundamental distinction between `environmental migrants` and `environmental refugees` is a standpoint of contemporsry studies in EDPs.

    According to Bogumil Terminski it seems reasonable to distinguish the general category of environmental migrants from the more specific (subordinate to it) category of environmental refugees.

    Environmental migrants, therefore, are persons making a short-lived, cyclical, or longerterm change of residence, of a voluntary or forced character, due to specific environmental factors. Environmental refugees form a specific type of environmental migrant.

    Environmental refugees, therefore, are persons compelled to spontaneous, short-lived, cyclical, or longer-term changes of residence due to sudden or gradually worsening changes in environmental factors important to their living, which may be of either a short-term or an irreversible character.



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