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Environmental security focuses on the ecological conditions necessary for sustainable development. It encompasses discussions of the relationships between environmental change and conflict as well as the larger global policy issues linking resources and international relations to the necessity for doing both development and security differently. Climate change has become an increasingly important part of the discussion as its consequences have become increasingly clear. What is not at all clear is in what circumstances climate change may turn out to be threat multiplier leading to conflict. Earth system science findings and the recognition of the scale of human transformations of nature in what is understood in the 21st century to be a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, now require environmental security to be thought of in terms of preventing the worst dangers of fragile states being unable to cope with the stresses caused by rapid environmental change or perhaps the economic disruptions caused by necessary transitions to a post fossil fueled economic system. But so far, at least, this focus on avoiding the worst consequences of future climate change has not displaced traditional policies of energy security that primarily ensure supplies of fossil fuels to power economic growth. Failure to make this transition will lead to further rapid disruptions of climate and add impetus to proposals to artificially intervene in the earth system using geoengineering techniques, which might in turn generate further conflicts from states with different interests in how the earth system is shaped in future. While the Paris Agreement on Climate Change recognized the urgency of tackling climate change, the topic has not become security policy priority for most states, nor yet for the United Nations, despite numerous policy efforts to securitize climate change and instigate emergency responses to deal with the issue. More optimistic interpretations of the future suggest possibilities of using environmental actions to facilitate peace building and a more constructive approach to shaping earth’s future.

Article

Elizabeth L. Chalecki

The term environment is often used as a short form for the biophysical environment, which refers to the biotic and abiotic surrounding of an organism or population, and consequently includes the factors that have an influence in their survival, development, and evolution. All life that has survived must have adapted to conditions of its environment. On one hand, part of the study of environmental science is the investigation of the effect of human activity on the environment. On the other hand, scholars also examine threats posed by environmental events and trends to individuals, communities, or nations, otherwise known as environmental security. It studies the impact of human conflict and international relations on the environment, or on how environmental problems cross state borders. Environmental security is a significant concept in two fields: international relations and international development. Within international development, projects may aim to improve aspects of environmental security such as food security or water security, along with connected aspects such as energy security. The importance of environmental security lies in the fact that it affects humankind and its institutions anywhere and at anytime. To the extent that humankind neglects to maintain the planet’s life-supporting eco-systems generating water, food, medicine, and clean air, current and future generations will be confronted with increasingly severe instances of environmentally induced changes.