Climate change has been a key factor in the rise and fall of societies and states from prehistory to the recent fighting in the Sudanese state of Darfur. It drives instability, conflict and collapse, but also expansion and reorganisation. The ways cultures have met the climate challenge provide lessons for how the modern world can handle the new security threats posed by unprecedented global warming.
Combining historical precedents with current thinking on state stability, internal conflict and state failure suggests that overcoming cultural, social, political and economic barriers to successful adaptation to a changing climate is the most important factor in avoiding instability in a warming world. The countries which will face increased risk are not necessarily the most fragile, nor those which will suffer the greatest physical effects of climate change.
The global security threat posed by fragile and failing states is well known. It is in the interest of the world’s more affluent countries to take measures both to reduce the degree of global warming and climate change and to cushion the impact in those parts of the world where climate change will increase that threat. Neither course of action will be cheap, but inaction will be costlier. Providing the right kind of assistance to the people and places it is most needed is one way of reducing the cost, and understanding how and why different societies respond to climate change is one way of making that possible.
'In this excellent Adelphi book, Jeffrey Mazo sheds revealing analytical light on the consequences of climate change for international security. Impressive in scope, and admirably measured, Mazo’s forensic examination of the science, history and likely strategic impact of climate change is required reading for national-security policymakers and practitioners and will have broader appeal for all those interested in understanding one of the great challenges of our time.’
Professor Alan Dupont, Director of the Centre for International Security Studies, Sydney University
‘Dr Mazo authoritatively tackles a much overlooked, yet pivotal dimension of the broader climate change debate – the security implications of evolving climate trends. He makes a strong case, anchored in both contemporary developments and historical analysis, that climate change can serve as a ‘threat multiplier’, contributing to instability, exacerbating conflicts and complicating foreign-policy decision-making. This book is a must read for foreign-policy professionals.’
Ambassador Paula J. Dobriansky, former US Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs
Introduction 1. Global Warming and Climate Change 2. Climate and History 3. Darfur: The First Modern Climate-Change Conflict 4. Conflict, Instability and State Failure: The Climate Factor 5. Climate Change and Security 6. Conclusion Glossary Notes
The Adelphi series is The International Institute for Strategic Studies' flagship contribution to policy-relevant, original academic research.
Six books are published each year. They provide rigorous analysis of contemporary strategic and defence topics that is useful to politicians and diplomats, as well as academic researchers, foreign-affairs analysts, defence commentators and journalists.