, Volume 15, Issue 1-2, pp 309-325

The implications of global climatic changes for international security

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Global climatic changes caused by growing concentrations of atmospheric trace gases have the potential to alter international relationships, economics, behavior, and security. While there is debate about the extent to which environmental problems alone can lead to conflict, it is widely acknowledged that resource constraints can act as roots leading to economic pressures and tensions, or as triggers to conflict when other pressures and tensions exist between states. Recent widespread attention to the issue of global environmental problems, particularly climatic change, is leading to a re-examination and expansion of the traditional narrow definition of “international security”. This paper discusses likely paths to international frictions and tensions and the responses that might be most appropriate to minimize the adverse consequences of climatic change for international security.

This work was supported by a fellowship in International Peace and Security Studies from the Social Science Research Council/MacArthur Foundation Fellows Program. The author is presently the director of the Environment Program at the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security in Berkeley, California.