2/2009 Content

84 (2009) 2: Climate Change and Violent Conflicts

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Climate Change and Conflict: A Critical Overview
Nils Petter Gleditsch / Ragnhild Nordås

The world is generally becoming more peaceful, but the debate on climate change raises the specter of a new source of instability and conflict. However, there is little systematic research on the security implications of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has summarized the science of climate change, based on thousands of peer-reviewed studies, but its scenarios for the social implications are much less certain and its few statements on the security implications are largely based on outdated or irrelevant sources. In this area, the debate on the policy implications is running well ahead of its academic foundation. This article outlines some plausible scenarios for how climate change might influence conflict through mechanisms like an increased frequency of natural disasters, sea-level rise, and droughts, particularly when they interact with stagnating development and poor governance. The tentative conclusion is that there is little cause for invoking apocalyptic scenarios, but that local conflicts may well add to the burden of underdevelopment affecting many countries in the third world.

Climate Change and Violent Conflict: Uncertain Knowledge about Causal Connection and the Necessitiy for Adaptation Measures and the Prevention of Violence
Helmut Breitmeier

The research program on ‘environmental security’ is still lacking evidence about the existence of a direct or indirect causal link between environmental depletion and violent conflict management. The knowledge about the impact of climate change on the evolution of new causes of conflict is just as much incomplete as information about factors which contribute to peaceful or violent conflict management. Peace and conflict studies will have to analyze the possible influence of climate change on the evolution of causes of conflict. In addition, the view of research must be directed on adaptation measures and the prevention of violent conflicts. The fragility of statehood and state failure are phenomena which are particularly affecting the ability of developing countries to adapt to climate change and to develop measures for the prevention of violent conflict. Many developing countries will have to develop such measures on the domestic or international level as they are particularly vulnerable to climate change.

Heated World Politics: Peace and Security in Times of Climate Change and Multipolarity
Steffen Bauer

Climate change undermines sustainable global development and puts peace and security at risk. Local and regional conflicts over water and land resources, climate-induced natural disasters and migration flows as well as international disputes between those countries considered primarily responsible for global warming and those most severely affected by its consequences are likely to cause increased levels of insecurity around the globe. At the same time, the rise of China and India forebodes the end of a US-dominated unipolar world order. The concurrence of both trends endangers the stability of the international system. Conversely, however, it could provide fresh incentives for multilateral cooperation. International climate politics, in particular, could further the institutional evolution of global governance and help to curb political tensions by building confidence and trust in world politics.

Climate Change Adaptation in the Context of Crises and Conflicts
Dennis Tänzler / Achim Maas / Alexander Carius

The findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) draw a dramatic picture of the regional impacts of climate change. Societies with only minor coping capacities will be most severely affected. To address the growing conflict potentials associated with a changing climate, the development and implementation of adaptation strategies has increasingly gained relevance. This article discusses the existing potentials of adaptation policies to improve a conflict preventive approach based on an assessment of initial national and international activities in this area. It turns out that an only technical understanding of adaptation to climate change is not sufficient to guide activities in conflict prone regions. Rather, the development of conflict sensitive adaptation strategies is required, based on comprehensive national capacity building efforts supported internationally and linked to regional processes of cooperation.

Further Article

The German Constitutional Court on the German Aerial Security Law: A Sonderweg from the perspective of international law?
Georg Nolte

The German Constitutional Court has declared an “Aerial Security Law” unconstitutional. This law authorized the shooting down of hijacked passenger planes if this was necessary to prevent an immediate threat to the lives of other innocent persons. The decision was grounded on the guarantee of human dignity as enshrined in Article 1, paragraph 1 of the German Grundgesetz. In 2008, the Polish Constitutional Court followed this judgement by the German Court and its reasoning in a similar case. The author asks whether the reasoning of decisions is likely to be accepted as correct at the international level? In particular, the author evaluates whether the categorical understanding of human dignity by both courts is also reflected in the principles of humanitarian international law and international human rights. He comes to the conclusion that this is not the case. From the point of view of international law, the decisions of the German and the Polish Courts rather seem to represent a certain national or central European Sonderweg which could be explained by the respective attitudes of the Courts and the societies they represent towards the experience of the Nazi regime.