Friday, April 3, 2009

Future Trends in Climate, Development and Security

As an alumni of Boston University I have access to their alumni webinars. Today the webinar was presented by Adil Najam, Director of the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future. He served as a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), work for which the IPCC was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize along with Al Gore. On the nomination of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Professor Najam was recently appointed as a member of the United Nations Committee for Development Policy (CDP), a subsidiary of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

In his talk, Future Trends in Climate, Development and Security, Adil Najam discussed what global climate change means in the context of other big challenges of our time with specific reference to global development and global security and posed three questions for review:
1.) Why should we be viewing climate change as a development and security issue?
2.) What is the nature of 'globalness' in our globalized world?
3.) What are the key future trends for global climate change policy and practice.

In order to answer these questions he tackled different aspects of climate change and development. One of the first aspects he looked at was our planetary design.

In order to put our planet in context he asked the question, if the world was one country, what sort of country would it be?
a. It would be a very poor country;
b. It would be a very divided country;
c. It would be a very degraded county;
d. It would be a very insecure country;
e. It would be a poorly governed country;
f. It would be an unsafe country.

If our world were just one country, our world would be a developing country. Therefore, the challenge of development has to be thought of in the context of developing planet. This matters because the connectedness of environmental challenges forces us to confront otherwise neglected aspects of our global connectedness. Therefore we must realize that many environmental issues are global; climate is the quintessential global challenge of our times, environment is “where we live” and cannot be understood except through multi disciplinary lenses, and environmental challenges are essential challenges for security.

This in turn has allowed for us to think of the idea of 'Sustainable Development' - we can not continue to have global ponzi scheme in terms of development because the people we will be taking from will be future generations.

However, how do you fulfill the needs of development while also fulfilling the needs of environment?

We need to turn the environment pictures around to be not just of wildlife and conservation, but also a picture of development and people. The story of climate change has been one of a Conceptual Evolution - evolving from looking at just emissions to looking at efficiency and how things can be run better and more economically. From questions of efficiency it expanded to questions surrounding climate policy and that in turn lead to questions of equity and development which have now evolved into sustainability and the ways in which people live.

Human development is linked to human security, because people only think about security when they are insecure and insecurity impacts the environment. For example the Liberian Civil War on Guinea has had a significant impact on the environment in the Parrot's Beak Region of Guinea.

A 2x2 matrix was provided on the types of conflict with the scope.

He then tied different environmental aspects into this matrix discussing how all types of insecuity are equally important, the first example being that of water.

Water and War: Isn’t as much water war in world, major source of conflict but not of war.
Water and Civil Strife: Water remains a major cause of civil violence.
Water and Institutional Failure: Crises of governance can manifest as serious social conflict.
Water and Human Security: Water triggers human insecuirty through livelihoods as well as lifestyles. Each year more people die from dirty water than from war.

How can we tackle climate adaptation?

In order to tackle climate adaptation we must first get closer to the problem and determine where the future stresses lie.
Seven potential future stresses were cited:
1. Water Stress
2. Food Stress
3. Energy Stress
4. Disease Stress
5. Disaster Risks
6. Ecosystem Degradation
7. Mass Migrations (creates new stress on larger cities)

In conclusion, Adil Najam gave 5 Propositions to how to tackle climate change, development and security:
1. The environment is too important to be left to environmentalists alone and needs to be picked up by businesses, government, science, etc.
2. There is a new energy economy in the making and it will not be stopped. The future of energy will be increasingly climate constrained.
3. Climate change will hit the poorest first, the poorest the most and the poorest dispropotionately.
4. The climate of business has changed, so must the business of climate.
5. Climate policy was predominantly energy policy, increasingly it will become water policy.

The presentation should be available online in upcoming days at

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