I came across this interview last Wednesday with Caitlin Werrell and Francesco Femia of the Center for Climate and Security talking about the ways in which climate change impacted the violence in Syria. There is a lot of meat to the article, but I found one quote particularly striking – I’ll post it here:
“In other words, doing something about climate change is not going to bring world peace, in and of itself. However, it is very important that governments and the international community recognize that we can do something about mitigating climate change and also adapting to the risks. Governments can climate-proof their infrastructure: We’re talking about better water practices, better irrigation techniques. It also means climate-proofing institutions we normally don’t think of as associated with climate change, such as health infrastructure.”
I found the idea of “climate-proofing” government institutions to be really interesting. It seems to me that often the best forms of “climate-proofing” are just good governance to begin with – i.e. improving access to healthcare, ensuring an equitable and efficient distribution of clean water in rural areas, etc.
If that is the case, though, does it really make sense to talk about “climate proofing” as a tool of governance that any regime can use to shore up control over their citizenry? For example, given what we know about the Assad regime could it have ever employed “climate-proofing” without a radical shift in strategy – one that might have been equally destabilizing to the regime as the climate changes it sought to mitigate?
My worry here is that pursuing “climate friendly” governmental policies could be used as tools for keeping dictators and tyrants in power. I would love to hear what Werrell and Femia think about that and how they would answer the above questions. In any case, it’s something for me to grapple with for a while.
Please note that the views expressed in this piece do not represent the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.