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Making the connection between climate change and security

Madison Koenig December 6, 2013


Geoff Dabelko has been studying the links between the environment and security for most of his career.

"When we investigated possible connections between the environment and instability in the wake of the Cold War, climate change was not part of the discussion," he said. "That is no longer the case. Climate change now dominates the environmental security landscape."

Dabelko, professor and director of environmental studies at Ohio University's Voinovich School for Leadership and Public Affairs, now heavily focuses his research on climate change and security links.  He thinks one important question has been largely overlooked: How will our responses to climate change affect peace?

A growing number of reports indicate that climate change could harm national security.  Dabelko worries that if people don't recognize the potential of negative impacts, our responses to climate change could cause other problems.

"We are rightly concerned about the national and human security implications of climate change," Dabelko said. "But scholars and policymakers alike also need to make sure the ways we mitigate and adapt to the climate do no unintentionally contribute to violence or insecurity in communities, countries, and regions."

Dabelko is part of a collaboration of researchers affiliated with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a nonpartisan public policy research institute in Washington, D.C. Dabelko served as the director of the center's Environmental Change and Security Program (ESCP) from 1997 until 2012, and he remains a senior advisor for the program.

Dabelko and his colleagues published their findings in the latest edition of the ECSP Report, in a series of articles titled Backdraft: The Conflict Potential of Climate Mitigation and Adaptation.

Dabelko has been presenting the team's findings at a variety of scholarly events, including the Vermont Law School's Fall 2013 Symposium titled "Rising Temps and Emerging Threats: The Intersection of Climate Change and National Security in he 21st Century."  He also presented at the Ohio University's Department of Geography's Fall 2013 Colloquium and as a part of the Environment Studies Kanawha Project's climate change literacy training.

The next showcase for Dabelko's work will be in the March release of the 5th Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Dabelko was a lead author on the "Human Security" chapter.  He plans to organize multiple on-campus sessions to debate the findings.