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Effects of Climate Change Under Way

Security

Effects of Climate Change Under Way

The National Climate Assessment (NCA) released its much-awaited report this past week on the Impacts and Risks of climate change to the United States. This report was created by representation across numerous US governmental agencies. It is mandated by Congress and the first to be published during the Trump presidency.

The report finds documents how climate-related events have become more commonplace and without intervention could have more devastating impacts. These include the inability to retain snow in the western mountain ranges, wildfires in California and the depletion of coral reefs in the Caribbean and Hawaii. The report further outlines that climate change is already being felt by communities across the country by creating new health risks exacerbating existing vulnerabilities and damaging infrastructure around the country. Climate events are expected to increasingly disrupt daily social and economic life.

This report comes at a particularly troubling time as the current President, who has is sceptical of climate change continues to undo several Obama era climate change mitigation initiatives. He has also shunned efforts on behalf of the international community by withdrawing the US from the Paris Climate Accords. This has not only undermined global efforts but also left a void which China was happy to fill taking a lead on climate change. The international community seems to be approaching a similar stance of adjusting to a Trump-led America.

In the recently-concluded G20 summit, a summit for the leaders of the countries with the 20 largest global economies, the final statement on climate change demonstrates a rift between the US and the other nations. The statement reads “We take note of the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from the Paris agreement,” adding: “The leaders of the other G20 members state that the Paris agreement is irreversible” and “we reaffirm our strong commitment to the Paris agreement”.

With Angela Merkel retirement looming, the world has lost one of its biggest advocates of climate mitigation efforts. How things will be with her successor are unclear.

But can we afford to ignore the requirements set out in the Paris Climate Accords? A comprehensive report presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which was released last month in South Korea presented a bleak future for our planet if climate change continues unchecked. The report outlines that the consequences of a 1.5 degree Celsius rise in global temperature from pre-Industrial times (the oft-cited goal) will be far more damaging than earlier believed.

In 2009, at the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen, leaders, policy makers and scientist agreed that limiting the global rise in temperatures to two degrees would be sufficient to address any catastrophic changes. In Paris, in 2015, this goal was revaluated to an aspiration of a 1.5 degree limit. This new report suggests that even a 1.5 degree increase could be catastrophic.

With such catastrophic predictions such as these, the climate talks in Poland this month becomes all the more relevant. The politics surrounding globally-shared security concerns such as climate change has become more complicated with isolationism popping up around the world, most significantly demonstrated by the US withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. What is urgently needed now is an acceptance of the impact that the climate change is already having on the world, and a more robust effort by the global leaders and business to act on them.

Image Credit: CC by Californi Wildfire/ Flickr

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M. Sudhir Selvaraj

M. Sudhir Selvaraj writes the Weekly Security Brief for GCN. He is a fellow with the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life. His interests lie in security of religious minorities, secularism, U.S. foreign policy and politics of South Asia. He is currently pursuing his doctoral studies at King’s College London. He has a master’s (with distinction) in International Relations from the Department of War Studies, King’s College London and graduated cum laude (with honors) from Concordia College, Minnesota with majors in Political Science and Global Studies and a minor in Business.

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