Climate change has been identified as one of the most serious threats to national and human security. The impact of climate change will put pressure on populations, economies, livelihoods and natural resources. Increases in the incidence of extreme weather events and long-term climate changes can challenge water and food security and exacerbate massive migration, instability and conflicts that will cost trillions of pounds and millions of lives. Additionally, transitioning to renewable energy will influence the power balance between countries and reconfigure trade flows and create new interdependencies around renewables and commodities.
Without action, the impacts of climate change are predicted to affect 80% of the world's poorest who will be living in fragile contexts by 2030, put 100 million people at risk of being pushed into extreme poverty by 2030, and increase the cost of climate-related disasters to a GBP 2.17 trillion by 2040.
Amongst the most decisive challenges humanity will face in the next few decades will be the necessity to mitigate Anthropocene risks beyond the nation-state's sovereign limitations. These systemic risks exhibit complex relationships that extend in space and time via flows of materials, people's movement, and trade linkages. Thus, understanding and governing them require new and dynamic strategic foresight capabilities and tools that help policymakers identify where resilience needs to be built in and/or safeguarded.
This map illustrates the connected nature of climate security risks which include physical risks to resources and infrastructure, risks to human mobility and social cohesion and transition risks from climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts.
Explaining the science
Recent developments in data science, statistical modelling and machine learning combined with climate science can unlock the capacity to better model, predict, and forecast climate change impacts. We envisage new methods and data-driven tools that can connect the social and biophysical dimensions of the Earth System and capture the feedback between social and natural system components that result in resilience changes. With these new methods, we will be able to:
- Better determine where the accumulation of climatic stresses is interacting with human populations and how these dynamics are changing over time. This will indicate how many people will be impacted by environmental and climatic stresses and help determine how these hotspots overlap with other structural risks to drive fragility, conflict, migration or maladaptation.
- Identify and issue early warnings of potential climate security tipping points - building on existing work that has demonstrated early warning signals exist for climate and ecological tipping points. This can inform the development of proactive and area-specific risk reduction and resilience planning responses.
- Develop new causal models that explicitly link climate and socio-economic processes and can help policymakers create scenarios of future security risks. These scenarios can help define the boundaries for safe and just ‘operating spaces' and shape policy and programme recommendations that reduce environmental stresses and their negative impacts on populations.
In the initial phase of the project, we aim to further analyse the interactions between the societal, economic and environmental factors on instability and conflict resulting from climate change. This will give us a better understanding of the modelling and data requirements needed to effectively build a data model(s) used in various scenarios to show future potential climate security tipping points.
George BalstonProgramme Co-Director, Defence and Security
Alaric WilliamsProgramme Manager, Defence and Security
Researchers and collaborators
Dr Weisi GuoHonorary Professor at University of Warwick & Professor of Human Machine Intelligence at Cranfield University
Dr Jesse F. AbramsUniversity of Exeter
Dr Erik MackieCambridge Zero, University of Cambridge
Alyssa GilbertGrantham Institute, Imperial College London
Dr Scott HoskingSenior Research Fellow
Dr Emily ShuckburghCambridge Zero, University of Cambridge
Dr Emma BolandBritish Antarctic Survey
If you would like to collaborate, join future workshops and keep up with the latest updates, email [email protected].