The Environment is a Global Security Issue

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Environmental challenges have received international attention that has never before been witnessed. There are however still a number of countries and groups that refuse to provide environmental issues the recognition they deserve, and this is to the detriment of the rest of the world. This short essay will strongly argue that environmental threats justify an increase to the concept of global security.

The definition of global security is complex and multi-faceted and is constantly being debated. Realist such as Waltz advocate that global security issues should be limited to traditional military issues, and to increase this scope would be devaluing these security issues. In contrasts liberalists such as Ullman argue for an increased definition of global security to include human security and environmental threats.

The argument here is that environmental issues are security threats, as they cross borders, have serious consequences, are connected to other issues and can result in military consequences. Firstly, environmental issues are inherently global in nature. Issues such as pollution, decreased water supply, global warming and acid rain all impact on nations around and have no respect for the notion of sovereignty. Examples of the global nature of environmental issues include the Indonesian forest fires and the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

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Secondly, environmental issues are serious and have significant consequences. Whilst the impact of issues such as global warming are highly contestable, the Bruntland Report outlined the consequences of environmental degradation, including depleting resources and lack of water. Thirdly, environmental issues are connected to other security threats. For example,  rising sea levels are threatening to submerge a number of Pacific islands, causing an environmental refugee problem. The World Health Organisation 2001 Report outlined that 90% of Malarial deaths and one quarter of all diseases is related to environmental degradation being witnessed.

Finally environmental issues have the potential to cause military security issues. The international community is currently witnessing a number of conflicts over different resources, such as the Nile Basin. It has been estimated that by 2050, 75% of internal or regional conflicts will be over access to limited resource, especially water. It has been shown that environmental challenges pose a serious threat, as they can cross boundaries, are connected with other issues, and can create military conflict. It is therefore argued that a revised concept of global security is justified.

The Copenhagen School of Thought (CST) created a new concept of global security, as it is believed that the traditional focus on solely military threats was too limited in application. The CST advocates for for ‘securitisation theory’ where an issue will be a security threat if it affects one or more of the following categories – (1) military, (2) economic, (3) environmental, (4) political and (5) societal.

Environmental challenges impact on all of the five categories provided (1) can result in military conflict, (2) environmental issues can have detrimental economic impacts to countries and regions, (3) results in environmental degradation; (4) can create political insecurity; and (5) can have a destabilising effect on a society.

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So in conclusion, one of the biggest challenges faced by the international community will be how to combat environmental issues so that the next generation will be able to survive and enjoy the earth. The consequences of environmental issues is a hotly contested debate, but it cannot be denied that the world needs to protect its finite resources. This short essay has strongly argued that environmental challenges should be considered a global security threat. This is because they are serious, can cross borders and are connected to other issues and can cause military conflict. The Copenhagen School of Thought “securitisation’ model was also used as a justification for the importance of environmental issues, outlining the significant detriment and impact environmental issues have.

By

Dr. Daniel Ringuet

PhD in International Political Economy

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Email: seacrusoe-at-hotmail.com

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