Think Tank (5/2021)
< Back
Tackling the Nexus Between Climate Change and Security — Singapore and German Perspectives
27 Oct 2021

The third dialogue between RSIS and the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) was held online on 27 October 2021. This year’s dialogue was titled, “Tackling the Nexus Between Climate Change and Security — Singapore and German Perspectives.”

The dialogue was organised at an important time, just after the release of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Climate Report and before the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26).

There was consensus among the participants that climate change requires serious political action at all levels and that it is important for countries and regions to learn from each other how to better mitigate the challenges posed by climate change. More than one participant highlighted that the IPCC report was a “code red” for humanity.

Three salient discussion points were raised during the dialogue. First, a multidimensional approach needs to be taken to mitigate the effects of climate change. There must be national, regional and international plans to deal with the problem. With the world struggling to overcome the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and at the same time grappling with the effects of climate change, there is a need for countries to hold each other accountable for prioritising climate change adaptation policies and determining how these policies can be coordinated through regional channels. Germany has been dealing with climate security, particularly at the international level, by continuous engagement with the UN and other international platforms, and engaging in collaborative discussions with individual countries, particularly within Asia. Its climate change discourse is currently focused on understanding the losses and damages from climate change so that countries can act quickly. However, this approach has made little progress in gaining the attention of the bigger powers owing to fears of liability cases being brought up by those who have been directly impacted by climate change.

Second, the need for militaries to play a role in climate security has intensified in Southeast Asia owing to the pandemic. Climate change alone is a risk multiplier, which exposes people to many different types of risks at the same time. Climate-induced disasters exacerbated by the pandemic have significantly threatened human security. Travel restrictions and lockdowns owing to the pandemic have greatly affected international and regional humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations. Hence, countries must rely on their own resources to pull them through these “dual crises”. More than any other institution, the military has the capacity and experience to help evacuate and provide shelter, food and amenities to those affected by disasters. Participants agreed that government institutions, including the military, need to be prepared to deal effectively with climate security-related problems as the effects of climate change intensify. Establishing humanitarian green lanes between countries to allow smooth and quick access to humanitarian supplies and workers will help countries work through the challenges posed by the pandemic or other similar scenarios in future.

Third, there is a need for governance in adopting climate-related technology. As the effects of climate change intensify, technology to mitigate the problem is also expanding. For example, Stratospheric Aerosol Injection (SAI), a method to help reduce global temperatures, could pose a threat to security if weaponised. Hence, governments need to anticipate and prepare to use various climate engineering technologies and carbon removal methods in a safe and secure manner. Participants agreed that governance both at the national and international level is crucial to overcome the security challenges posed by such technologies.

The dialogue ended with participants agreeing that nations need to remain committed to looking for ways to mitigate the effects of climate change and that more regional and multilateral collaborations are needed to tackle the issue. Scholars and researchers play a pivotal role in influencing both their universities and governments to reduce their carbon footprints. They should continue to engage in formal dialogues to continue to inject new and important perspectives into the ongoing discourse on climate change.

more info
Other Articles