Climate change has — and will continue to have — far-reaching impacts on environmental, social and economic conditions.
Increasingly, climate change and the associated increase in the frequency of extreme weather events (such as floods, droughts and rising sea level) are acknowledged as not only having humanitarian impacts, but also creating national/regional political and security risks. While people and governments can adapt to these impacts, their capacity to do so varies.
The UNU Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) joined 13 other international research teams on the project Climate Change, Hydro-conflicts and Human Security (CLICO). The CLICO project sought to discover to what extent the effects of climate change — in terms of water scarcity, droughts and floods —present a threat to human security in the Mediterranean, Middle East and Sahel region, not least by exacerbating social tensions and intra- and inter-state conflicts. Conversely, the study also considered whether climate change might be a catalyst for cooperation and peace.
Results confirm that climate and hydrological factors, and socio-economic, institutional and political conditions, are all important drivers of human (in)security, but their relative importance depends on the specific context in which they interact.
Adaptation plays a key role in determining whether climate change is likely to undermine human security. The study found that adaptation processes — either undertaken by individuals/groups or governed and led by the state — can both reduce and increase insecurities.
The final CLICO synthesis report — “Climate Change, Water Conflicts and Human Security:Regional Assessment and Policy Guidelines for the Mediterranean, Middle East and Sahel” — presents a comprehensive assessment of the region in terms of climate change impacts, vulnerabilities, conflict/cooperation and human security at various geographical scales and in a variety of historical contexts.
With regard to water-related conflict and cooperation, the study found slightly more cooperative than conflictive events in the region. CLICO research also points toward stronger links between political,
economic and social factors and water-related conflict than between climate-related variables and water conflict (although in the future these relationships could change).
The report makes several recommendations to guide policymakers in terms of improving adaptive capacities, reducing vulnerabilities and, hence, increasing human security in the face of climate change.
The full CLICO report can be downloaded directly by clicking on the link above, or via the Climate change, water conflicts and human security page on the UNU-EHS website.