“Climate change can intensify conflicts”

Climate and security is a subject that Germany is prioritising in the UN Security Council. For good reason. An expert explains how they are connected.

Drought, like here in Kenya, threatens the basis of life.
Drought, like here in Kenya, threatens the basis of life. picture alliance

Increasing temperatures worldwide are leading to a shortage of natural resources. Climate change is becoming a security risk, especially in the politically fragile regions of the world. Dennis Tänzler from adelphi, the Berlin-based climate think tank, gives examples.

Mr Tänzler, why does climate change constitute a threat to security?

It is perfectly normal for us here to have access to sufficient water, to be able to supply ourselves with food without any risk to our safety and, if necessary, find protection from extreme weather events. However, many people, especially in the conflict-ridden regions of the world, are very far away from having conditions of this kind. If their living environment is then also massively impaired by climate change, social and political destabilisation can occur. The results range from the intensification of local resource conflicts to possible tensions between states. To that extent, climate changes can endanger central pillars of peace and stability.

Dennis Tänzler, climate policy expert
Dennis Tänzler, climate policy expert Sebastian Semmer - GPI

Please give us a few examples.

Climate-induced conflicts can be observed, for example, in northern Kenya. Large sections of the population there live from nomadic cattle herding. Climate change has resulted in drought and irregular precipitation. Already scarce resources are becoming even scarcer, and conflicts with settled arable farmers over areas of pasture and water resources have intensified. There is an increase in people’s readiness to defend their basis of life, if necessary by force of arms. Along the courses of rivers that cross international borders, such as the Nile or the Niger, tensions can also increase in existing conflict-ridden regions. If the amount of water available for distribution then becomes scarcer, carefully negotiated settlements of interests between neighbouring countries can be severely tested.

Why and how is Germany working for climate protection in crisis regions?

German climate foreign policy has contributed to putting the security risks of climate change on the agenda at the international level. Germany has also made this a priority in the United Nations Security Council. In addition to this, programmes are being set up in designated conflict regions that aim to increase resilience – for example, in the Lake Chad region or the Niger Delta. This is not possible without international partnerships. The initial conditions for such programmes are extremely difficult, but their possible function as anchors of stability in times of climate change are extremely important.

Dennis Tänzler is Director of International Climate Policy at adelphi, a Berlin-based think tank that, among others, advises the Federal Government on the subjects of climate, environment and development. The main emphases of its work are climate and energy policy as well as foreign and security policy.

Interview: Klaus Lüber

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