Climate Change – the Biggest Security Threat of Our Times

The climate crisis is aggravating conflicts, destabilising entire societies and adversely affecting peace and stability around the globe. That is why climate policy is a priority of German foreign policy

May 02nd, 2024
Editorial, News from Berlin
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Whether it be drought in the Horn of Africa, heat waves in India and North America or fires in Canada and around the Mediterranean, all over the world we see that the climate crisis is destroying livelihoods, threatening human lives and aggravating conflicts for resources that are already scarce.

This will have drastic ramifications for millions of people, their lives and their habitats. Human-induced climate change is thus not only an environmental phenomenon, but also a threat to peace and security.

Climate crisis: a catalyst for conflicts and tensions

Even today, in certain parts of the world, rising sea levels, record temperatures, more frequent weather extremes and the growing risk of environmental disasters are increasingly depriving people of their livelihoods. These problems are often compounded by other social, political or economic challenges. Under such conditions, the climate crisis can become a catalyst for conflicts and tensions.

In the Sahel region, desertification and droughts are forcing nomadic herders to enter regions populated by sedentary farmers. This often leads to conflict over scarce resources such as grazing grounds. In the Pacific, where rising sea levels, coastal erosion and dwindling fish stocks are depriving people of their livelihoods, smaller and lower-lying island states are at risk of total annihilation.

Energy supply, climate, peace and security

Russia’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine has resulted in rising energy and food prices all over the world. If it hadn’t been clear before, everyone has now realised that energy supply, peace, security and the climate are closely interconnected. Putting energy supply on a broader basis and pushing ahead with the expansion of renewables makes a contribution to climate protection and to security of supply.

The climate emergency is not an isolated crisis. It is the most challenging security issue of our time. The German Government therefore decided in its National Security Strategy to ask leading academic institutions and the Federal Intelligence Service to assess the impact of the climate crisis on our national security.

Fighting the climate crisis and dealing with its consequences is humanity’s central task in this century. Our foremost aim must be to drastically reduce global emissions, which are currently still on the rise: we must achieve results, and do so urgently. At the same time, we must pursue adaptation strategies that limit the impacts of the climate crisis, so as to protect both people and natural spaces.

Multilateral commitment to climate and security

Germany is using its active role in the United Nations to raise awareness of the impact of climate change on security policy. The topic also belongs on the Security Council’s agenda. With this in mind, Germany and the island state of Nauru established the United Nations Group of Friends on Climate and Security back in 2018. Germany further supports a number of climate initiatives in the sphere of peacebuilding. In addition, Germany is campaigning within the EU, NATO and the OSCE, for climate, peace and security to be addressed holistically.


News from Berlin