Climate Refugees in Bangladesh. Photo Credit: Sabbir, Wikimedia Commons
By Jack Karsten, PISA Staff Assistant
Climate change is not just an environmental threat whose greatest impacts will be felt in the future; it also plays an immediate role in today’s international security issues. For example, a recent study concluded that a sustained drought compounded factors that started the civil war in Syria, a struggle that endures four years later. Rising temperatures will increase competition for scarce water, food, and energy resources with the potential to spark new conflicts and intensify existing ones. Droughts, floods and storms linked to climate change will displace millions of people each year, adding to the humanitarian crisis associated with war and border conflicts. Recognizing the impact of climate change on international security escalates the issue’s urgency.
Twelve years ago the Conferences of the Parties (COP-3) met in December 1997 to hash out the details of the Kyoto Protocol. A watershed moment in the global recognition of and fight against climate change, the Kyoto Protocol introduced many of the tools in use today for emissions reductions: emissions trading markets, Clean Development Mechanisms (CDMS) for developing countries and joint implementation provisions. However, as much promise as the Protocol showed, it is widely viewed as a failed effort. No doubt, the United States’ refusal to ratify the treaty did, to a great extent seal its fate, with both Clinton and G.W. Bush administrations and congressional counterparts opting out of the treaty, citing harm to business interests and dismay over lack of emissions goals for developing countries. Since 1992 global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have risen by 38%, U.S. emissions by 20% and Chinese by 150%; the EU’s have fallen by only 0.8%. (See shared folder for an in-depth analysis of GHG trends.)