Security and Climate Change

Part One of the Climate Change Series

For most of the 21st century we have been discussing the same issue. It is an issue that has been brewing for decades and is almost at its boiling point – literally. Humans have been engaged in this matter since the early 1800s, when the industrial revolution brought about the technology that would forever impact our natural world. The focus of climate change is often on the natural ramifications, such as the increase of natural disasters and the overall warming of the earth’s temperature. This focus has shifted with the modern discussion of climate change, as now many governments are acknowledging the impact of climate change on security, on both the national and personal levels. 

Natural Disasters

The most obvious impact to the security industry is the increasing rate of natural disasters. Natural disasters present the base level of the potential risks for the security industry. In and of themselves, natural disasters are difficult enough. While some precautions can be taken – such as buildings built to earthquake codes, or higher built structures to avoid flooding – natural disasters are truly unpredictable. Even ones that can be tracked, like hurricanes, can leave destruction in their wake that never could have been imagined. But natural disasters have predated climate change, so why are we discussing this now? Well, science has shown us that the results of climate change (especially the increase of global temperature) will have an impact on the severity of certain disasters. For example, storm formation may not increase as a result of climate change, but the strength of these storms will be increased by the warmer temperatures. Cycles of droughts may occur over a shorter period of time, meaning that droughts could occur more often than ever in the past. If storms decrease in frequency but increase in severity, this would result in a less stable supply of rainfall in some areas. Probably the most infamous natural result of climate change is the rise of sea levels as a result of melting glaciers. 

The security industry is not unfamiliar with natural disasters, they have been a part of life since the dawn of the industry and will continue to be a pressing matter. What is going to cause strain on the security industry is how the severity of these disasters may increase, but their unpredictability will remain the same. We have heard this term a lot this past year, “unprecedented times,” but it does apply now more than ever. The security industry needs to be flexible in this era. We have the tools to combat the issue but without flexibility we won’t be ready to adjust for how the issue presents itself. 

Social Unrest

Even more unpredictable than nature, are humans themselves. Many theorize that with these worsening natural disasters and their results – droughts, or flooding, to result in lack of crops or other necessary resources – could eventually destabilize already fragile infrastructure. Even without destabilization, major impact on a stable economy can result in protests and other forms of social unrest (we need look no further than the impact by COVID-19 to see that this is true). Social unrest is something to be expected in many areas and is accounted for and included in security plans. The security industry may have an idea of where to plan for these events, but the result of these natural disasters can strike anywhere, creating the possibility for social unrest in virtually any corner of the globe. And for areas that are already experiencing increased social unrest, this will only exacerbate it. When the needs of individuals are not met, it is almost assured that they will take to the streets. 

Full-Scale Conflict

Wars have been fought over resources many times. Water and land offer a compelling fight throughout history. With the potential for scarce resources comes the potential for the fight for these resources, and climate change presents this dilemma. Now, admittedly, official declarations of war may not be a direct result of climate change, but experts do believe that physical conflicts will emerge as a result of the scarce resources being protested. This is where it all falls together; how something as simple as an increase in natural disasters can result in one of the most pressing security issues facing the industry: conflict. Scarce food supplies often lead to food competition, even in this modern age. Food competition typically occurs in less developed areas of the world, where preexisting animosities or even ongoing conflicts may already be occurring. Much like how the rise of global temperatures creates conditions for stronger hurricanes, it is the perfect storm of conflict. Now, not only are drought and hunger issues facing the world, but associated unrest and conflict will flourish. Things went from good to bad, and then from bad to worse. 

The Future

Unlike many other pieces on the earth’s future at the hand of climate change, this is not meant to scare you. Scientists and governments alike are working tirelessly to combat this future, but what damage has already occurred cannot be undone. Our future may not have to be one of apocalyptic proportions, but certain realities must be faced. Increased global temperature has already occurred. Reports on the relationship between severe natural disasters and climate change have been published, and a relationship has been proven. So, while scientists and governments work tirelessly to prevent this from going any further, we in the security industry must work to secure against the damage already done. Climate change is not simply an ecological phenomenon, it has gone far enough to impact the entire food chain. Many individuals are already addressing this threat, with the UN Representative from the United Kingdom, Emyr Jones Parry, calling climate change the great threat to global security. This short article is not enough time to delve into the true history and ramifications of climate change. This is only the introduction to everything that we will dive into during this series on climate change’s impact on the security industry. Looking forward to next week’s edition! Follow along at www.rileyrisk.com/blog. 

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