A Sting Exclusive: “Without climate, forget about peace!”, Swedish MEP Bodil Valero cautions from Brussels

Bodil Valero MEP SwedenThis article was exclusively written for the Sting by Mrs Bodil Valero, Member of the European Parliament for the Swedish Green Party

For a long time, climate change has been seen as a “soft” issue, one that states and citizens can afford to care about when the rest of society’s problems aren’t as pressing. Portrayed as separate from other policy areas and set in a distant future somewhere else, climate have had to settle with a few weeks of limited attention in the political spotlight, every other year 3-5 years, when there is a major climate summit.

This has had the effect that real efforts to effectively stop climate change are often put on hold, in favour of more pressing issues, be it the economy, social welfare, or security. But is there really a contradiction between climate and these policy areas?

A few years ago, when I was sitting in the Swedish Committee on European Affairs in the Swedish parliament, I questioned the long term sustainability of replacing coal with gas, since it is also a fossil fuel. I will never forget the reply I got Carl Bildt, who was Swedish foreign minister at the time. He said he was grateful for every step that reduces greenhouse gases. But, he said “If we replace coal with gas, we cut emissions in half. Then Bodil can say that gas is not sustainable because it will be different in 50 years – Well in 50 years we will all be dead. And by then we will surely have found something new.”

I don’t think Mr. Bildt meant any harm, but I can’t help to think that his answer was symptomatic for the way that climate change has been treated over the years. After all, who cares about polar bears and rising sea levels in the future, when there are people dying in war and poverty here and now? Luckily, with the advent of new scientific research, (and more sadly with natural disasters occurring more and more frequently) that perception is beginning to change.

After devastating conflicts in Sudan, Darfur and the Horn of Africa there it is rare to find serious security researchers denying that climate has an effect on security. In 2013, researchers from Berkley University published the largest meta study to date “Quantifying the Influence of Climate on Human Conflict”, with a remarkable convergence of results. They found that there is “strong causal evidence linking climatic events to human conflict across a range of spatial and temporal scales and across all major regions of the world.”

For each standard deviation of one degree Celsius warmer temperatures, the frequency of interpersonal violence on average rises 4% and the frequency of intergroup conflict rises 14%. With global warming expected to raise temperatures between 2 and 4 degrees until 2050, you can only imagine the consequences in terms of violent conflict. Or as former US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel put it: “Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty and conflict,”

The links between climate and security have never been stronger. In fact, (though most people don’t know it) we are already dealing with the consequences. Before the start of the civil war in Syria, the country suffered a five year long drought, one of the worst in its history. Years before the Assad regime and before anyone had heard of a terrorist group called ISIS, some 1.5 million Syrians, many of them farmers, had already fled their homes and migrated. The effects were unprecedented. Food prices rose, cities were quickly getting crowded and jobs were in short supply. And not just in Syria, this affected the whole area.  Out of these frustrations grew the sparks that would ignite the Arab world. What happened after, you already know.

Climate migration was, and is very real in Syria. But the magnitude of the effect of climate change is underestimated when we only consider those who have fled as direct victims of a flood or a drought, when crops are failing and food is scarce. Today more than half of Syria’s population have fled their homes, and sadly it looks like more will follow.

Considering that only a few hundred thousand refugees has been enough to throw Europe into what is being labelled a “migration crisis”, creating tensions that threatens to risk the foundations of the Union, I think it is safe to say that Europe is not prepared.

If climate is a security threat large enough to force millions of people from their homes and to multiply threats of war and conflict, then it should be treated as such. Make the comparison with terrorism. Terrorism is instant fear, visual and gruesome – and it leaves legislators panicking, suggesting the toughest laws and measures they can think of within the week. But with climate change, although millions are already being affected and the future of our life on this planet is at stake, we are still waiting.

Framing climate change as a security threat does not mean taking away other arguments why climate needs to be taken seriously. It only adds another dimension to the problem.

Likewise, widening the concept of security to include climate change does not mean watering down the concept of security and forgetting about traditional “hard” security issues that already exist – It only adds to the understanding of this complex field. If we continue to look at security in a traditional short term manner, we are destined to fail in the face of long term security challenges.

As leaders gather in Paris for what could be the political meeting of our time, I hope the issue of security will be on their mind. Because while some of them might be gone in 50 years, as it turns out, our children certainly won’t be.

About the author

Bodil Valero MEP SwedenBodil Valero is a member of the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance of the European Parliament and a member of the Swedish Green Party. A full member in the LIBE committee and substitute in the AFET committee she is also the coordinator for the Greens in the Subcommittee on Security and Defence at the European Parliament. 

After spending 12 years in municipal politics, Bodil became a member of the Swedish Parliament in 2006. In the parliament she was the Green Party’s spokesperson for foreign affairs and responsible for migration issues. Her main focus has been on development cooperation, human rights and peace and security. She particularly centres on global justice issues and opportunities for people to move around in the world. Bodil is a lawyer by vocation and has previously worked as a translator, interpreter and assistant to former Green Party MEP Inger Schörling.

Throughout her political career Bodil has spent a lot of time talking about the links between climate, conflict and migration.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

‘No steps taken’ so far to end Israel’s illegal settlement activity on Palestinian land – UN envoy

COP21 Breaking News_03 December: Unprecedented Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction to Combat Climate Change

These are the world’s 20 most dynamic cities

Hazy ‘breakthrough’ saves PM May, leaves Ireland in limbo: Brexit

Discussion at Europe House: Brexit & Food

Youth2030: UN chief launches bold new strategy for young people ‘to lead’

EU-UK future relations: crucial to ensure EU leverage and unity

Why it’s good to turn your colleagues into friends

Why vaccines are not just for children

An all-out fight for the EU budget

Mental health and social isolation: how do have an active participation in self-care?

How scientists are turning living cells into the tiny factories of the future

UN atomic watchdog chief updates governing body on key North Korean reactor

Migrants and refugees are being forgotten in the COVID-19 response. This has to change

EU’s new environmental policy on biofuels impacts both the environment and the European citizen

International Day of Cooperatives sets stage for long-standing production and consumption

European Youth Forum welcomes establishment of new Youth Intergroup in the European Parliament

Eurozone slowly but surely builds its Banking Union

Is Britain to sail alone in the high seas of trade wars?

Africa-Europe Alliance: first projects kicked off just three months after launch

Obama turns the G20 summit into warmongering platform

OECD economic scenarios to 2060 illustrate the long-run benefits of structural reforms

Four years on and half a billion dollars later – Tax Inspectors Without Borders

COP21 Breaking News_03 December: Argentina Accepts KP Amendment

Rise in number of children killed, maimed and recruited in conflict: UN report

Europe to turn the Hamburg G20 Summit into a battlefield

Trade barriers are slowing plastic-pollution action. Here’s how to fix it

1 million citizens try to create a new EU institution

British PM May’s Brexit proposal remains obscure while her government unravels

Gender equality, justice in law and practice: Essential for sustainable development

We need to rethink cybersecurity for a post-pandemic world. Here’s how

North Korea: ‘Time to talk human rights’, says UN expert

With human rights under attack, UN chief unveils blueprint for positive change

A Sting Exclusive: “Cybersecurity Act for safer European Industries and Consumers against cyberthreats”, by MEP Niebler

Generation Z will outnumber Millennials by 2019

COP21 Breaking News_09 December: The Draft Agreement Updated

Elections in Britain may reserve a surprise for May’s Tories

The Czech economy is thriving but boosting skills and productivity and transitioning to a low-carbon productive model is vital to sustainable and inclusive growth

UN gears up emergency food aid for hurricane-struck region of Bahamas, as death toll rises

Is Eurozone heading for disinflation?

Humanitarian crisis in Yemen remains the worst in the world, warns UN

Fairer and clearer rules on social benefits for EU mobile workers agreed

Migration has set EU’s political clock ticking; the stagnating economy cannot help it and Turkey doesn’t cooperate

Why sustainable products are a win-win for all of us

Internet Forum: Prioritize technologies most needed for sustainable development

Why Eurozone urgently needs the ECB to print and distribute at least €500 billion

Health without borders: How we can Improve International Collaboration in Health Care

EU’s tougher privacy rules: WhatsApp and Facebook set to be soon aligned with telcos

Joint EU-U.S. statement following the EU-U.S. Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial Meeting

COP21 Paris: The Final Agreement Adopted-full text

Parliament criticises Council’s rejection of money laundering blacklist

Costa Rica has doubled its tropical rainforests in just a few decades. Here’s how

Franchise India 2016, returns in 14th year 

Who can unlock the stalled Brexit negotiations? UK Premier sticks to her proposal

Why South Africa is on a path of economic renewal

From Kenya to China, here’s why countries should start working together on AI

Who should be responsible for protecting our personal data?

How supply chain transparency can help businesses make the right calls

‘Well-being of two million’ in Gaza at stake as emergency fuel runs dry: UN humanitarian coordinator

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s