Climate Change and Global Security (or one more reason why working together on climate matters)

This post is part of an archived series of blogs called The LeVine Line, written by former Ambassador Suzan G. LeVine during her time at U.S. Embassy Bern.

30 November 2015

This week, leaders from across the globe are gathering in Paris for COP 21, the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. They will be working together to figure out how the world can take action on climate change.

There is useful information on this site on COP 21 on the US position. Also – you can get answers to questions and view a series of livestream programs on crucial issues here.  The key question to all of this is — Why?  Why does it matter? What happens if we don’t do something? Why is this relevant for everyone on the planet?

Unchecked climate change threatens infrastructure, food security, water supply, sea levels, ecosystems and ultimately life on the planet. And there is another impact: climate change also threatens global security.

In his October speech delivered at the Milan Expo, Secretary Kerry made a really fascinating and critical point on the relationship between climate change and security.  He shared that:

“It is not a coincidence that immediately prior to the civil war in Syria, the country experienced the worst drought on record. As many as 1.5 million people migrated from Syria’s farms into Syria’s cities, and that intensified the political unrest that was beginning to brew. Now, I’m not telling you that the crisis in Syria was caused by climate change. No. Obviously, it wasn’t. It was caused by a brutal dictator who barrel bombed, starved, tortured, and gassed his own people. But the devastating drought clearly made a bad situation a lot worse.”

In the coming years, unless we do something to slow and stop the effects of climate change, we will be profoundly affected. Secretary Kerry’s remarks continue:

“Now, my friends, this is not really a complicated equation. It’s not hard to figure it out. Human beings are just like any other species on the planet: When our environments no longer provide us with the things that we need to survive, we will do everything we can to find a new place to live.

Here in Europe, you’re in the middle of one of the worst refugee crises in decades. And I would underscore, unless the world meets the urgency of this moment, the horrific refugee situation that we’re facing today will pale in comparison to the mass migrations that intense droughts, sea-level rise, and other impacts of climate change are likely to bring about.”

Representatives at the highest levels of governments from countries around the globe are meeting now in Paris to address climate change. But change starts with every single person. So as these next couple of weeks unfold in Paris, I encourage you to follow along with the discussion and the debate – and also think about what you, individually, can do!