Climate change as a national security threat

STRONG national climate change adaptation, mitigation and best national climate policy frameworks are the cornerstone of a nation’s resilience and stability. Security wise, all these contribute to a safer and habitable Zimbabwe. If the nation continues to watch helplessly, while the destruction of national forests and massive land degradation unfold, as well as failure to come up with sustainable and meaningful political will, climate change would pose imminent risks to national security. The regulation of our urban footprints, where the relatively inadequate infrastructure and limited services continue to be overstretched, we are likely to see the clashes, friction and tensions that retard growth. As such, climate change is a crisis we can never afford to ignore or pay lip service to.


Source:Climate Resilient tool kit
Source:Climate Resilient tool kit

As climate change continues to manifest itself as the mother of all risks, where its destructive impacts are significantly upon us, even the military’s ability to defend the country will be compromised. For national security to prosper, we need to have climate change stability, where there is no room of national destabilisation and plunder. As the extreme weather conditions gradually build up and are ready to explode, our nation or region may end up suffering from unquantifiable amount of damage and losses. This country is often prone to some devastating climate induced droughts and floods in some areas, which pose the greatest potential of chewing into the significant gains the nation has ever made. Although the living fact is that no country can exclusively avoid the wrath of climate disasters, it is always fundamental that every country prepare for a soft landing. This will enable these countries to resurrect themselves from their climate, inadequacies.

Countries with strong adaptation policies and firm programmes for alternative forms of renewable energy will not cry. Strong and versatile domestic interventions are needed in order to avoid conflicts due to various forms of scarcities and stress of the natural resources. Therefore, Zimbabwe needs to act decisively since it is within its national interest to do so, for the security of its people. Zimbabwe’s national security lies in its food security, health security, energy security, water security, resilient security, economic security and human security, just to mention a few. The satisfaction of all the above would help to avoid internal unrests, as well as the total collapse and disintegration of our social fabrics.

Our leaders have not raised the bar enough for climate change adaptations to the seriousness of a national security status. Across the Zimbabwean political landscape, all the notable and significant players are characterised by climate silence and sustainability gaps. In their climate ignorance or avoidance, they still think that climate is not a matter of national importance. As such, these people are a threat to the national security themselves, as they do not have plans for the future of the environment as well as their children.

Seeing climate as a real threat to national security helps the country adopt urgent steps in addressing human insecurity from environmental challenges. Of course, climate change still needs environmental and political solutions rather than purely military ones. But adverse impacts of climate change will leave the country incomplete, insecure and defenceless. Since climate change is the most severe problem we are facing today, nations need to engage in proactive strategic planning rather than piecemeal and half-baked retrogressive interventions. Droughts, famines and weather related disasters cost millions of lives and evoke tensions, suspicions and antagonism locally, regionally and internationally. Some resources are already glaringly inadequate and overstretched, therefore, the language that promotes the plunder of national resources in the name of our inheritance is in itself a threat to national security. The ecosystem balance has already been threatened, thereby, suffocating the earth’s ability to sustain lives. As a result, societies might be unable to cope with the rapid acceleration rates of climate change. Cases such as the ongoing tensions between Egypt and Ethiopia, with regard to Ethiopia’s dam expansion project for its hydro-electricity generation, can end up sucking the military forces of the two nations. It’s not that these two countries want to fight, it is a question of the scarce resource called water, both of them are not blessed with enough rainfall and they rely on the Nile for their survival. As such, the national security of both countries is threatened because of the stressed water resources.

The other ingredients of the threat to national security of any country is the biting poverty leading to rural to urban migration in search for what they think are employment opportunities. This will end up overstretching the limited urban infrastructure and already poor service deliveries not forgetting the urban people’s appetite to cultivate on wetlands, thereby, destroying the ecosystems. If the urban centres can no longer hold then things will fall apart leading to all form of vice that may threaten to tear the urban centres apart. The effects of climate change can lead to ethnic and religious battles, as people attempt to firmly establish themselves. Violence and clashes amongst various societal groups may end up attracting the strong hand of the military as it tries to restore order and normalcy.

If nations cannot sufficiently regulate and reduce their excessive carbon footprints, then the threat of climate change can equal all the various forms of security threats that developing and developed nations are currently grappling with. Climate induced destructions are irreversible and as such, we can only adapt. The extreme weather conditions that many countries are experiencing are a major threat to their national securities, and we must all be concerned.

Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his own capacity and can be contacted on:

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