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.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Featured Stings

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

To realise the full potential of AI, we must regulate it differently

High-technology manufacturing saves the EU industry

What next after more sanctions against Russia, will the Ukrainian civil war end?

European Banking Union: Like the issue of a Eurobond?

Fears for food security and the future of farming families, as Fall Armyworm spreads to Asia

YO!FEST ENGAGES 8,000 YOUNG EUROPEANS IN FUTURE OF EU

Terror attacks strike people ‘from all walks of life, the UN included’

‘12 million’ stateless people globally, warns UNHCR chief in call to States for decisive action

The battle for the 2016 EU Budget to shake the Union; Commission and Parliament vs. Germany

Humanitarian emergency in Venezuela was central debate of the EuroLat plenary

UN welcomes ‘milestone’ release of 833 Nigerian children from anti-Boko Haram force

Parliament seals 2014 EU budget and the spending ceiling until 2020

Sub10 Systems @ MWC14: Bridging the Ethernet of the Future

When it comes to envirotech adoption, NGOs can lead us out of the woods

Ercom, cutting-edge Telco solutions from Europe

IMF: The global economy keeps growing except Eurozone

A voice from Syria: the positive prospect of clinical research despite the excruciating circumstances

Who cares about the unity of Ukraine?

COP21 Breaking News_12 December: The New Draft Agreement!

At last a good price for the Greek debt!

Eritrea sanctions lifted amid growing rapprochement with Ethiopia: Security Council

‘Concerted effort’ must be made to help 600 million-plus adolescent girls realize full potential: Guterres

Climate change and health: a much needed multidisciplinary approach

Banks must take bold action to fight climate change. This is how they can do it

EU revengefully shows no mercy to Cameron by demanding a fast and sloppy Brexit now

Budget MEPs approve €34m in EU aid to Greece, Poland, Lithuania and Bulgaria

The refugee crisis brings to light EU’s most horrible flaws and nightmares

European Business Summit 2013: Where Business and Politics shape the future

Yellen and Draghi tell Trump and markets not to expedite the next crisis

Greece’s Tsipras: Risking country and Eurozone or securing an extra argument for creditors?

Why is the World Health Organisation so much needed?

Reintegrating former rebels into civilian life a ‘serious concern’ in Colombia: UN Mission chief

ECB to support only banks not Peoples

UN chief welcomes start of Church-mediated national dialogue in Nicaragua

Commission proposes fishing opportunities in the Atlantic and North Sea for 2019

Gender inequality in the medicine field: two commonly issues

The US-Mexico trade deal a threat for others, Trump to single out China, Europe

Public health through universal health coverage can help to attain many SDGs

France is building a village for people with Alzheimer’s

A new bioeconomy strategy for a sustainable Europe

MWC 2016 LIVE: Freemium MVNO model a success, claims FreedomPop head

SMEs and micro firms sinking together with south Eurozone

4 ways 3D printing can revolutionize manufacturing

Human Rights: breaches in Cambodia, Uganda and Myanmar

China’s 13th Five Year Plan and the opportunities for Europe

Doctors vs. Industry 4.0: who will win?

Governments can fight corruption by joining the digital payment revolution

1 million citizens try to create a new EU institution

ECB with an iron hand disciplines the smaller Eurozone member states; latest victim: Greece

UN urges protection of indigenous peoples’ rights during migration

There is a way for Eurozone to reach a sustainable growth path

EU presses India for a free trade agreement

NEC @ European Business Summit 2014: The Digitally Enabled Grid

UK keeps its Brexit plan secret or there is no strategy at all whatsoever?

Alarming level of reprisals against activists, human rights defenders, and victims – new UN report

What if Trump wins the November election and Renzi loses the December referendum?

Germany may have a stable and more cooperative government

UN forum spotlights cities, where struggle for sustainability ‘will be won or lost’

The West castigates Turkey’s Erdogan for the ruthless political cleansing

Does the Greek deal strengthen the Eurozone? Markets react cautiously

More Stings?

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