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Quarter of Humanity Faces ‘Extremely High Water Stress’

Quarter of Humanity Faces ‘Extremely High Water Stress’

Published on Tuesday, August 06, 2019 by Common Dreams is this story on the ‘Biggest Crisis No One Is Talking About’: Quarter of Humanity Faces ‘Extremely High Water Stress’ Intensified by Climate Emergency.

It is by Jessica Corbett, staff writer who adds that “A new generation of solutions is emerging, but nowhere near fast enough.” Much has been written about water scarcity in certain countries of the MENA region and this article would certainly not be the last.

A child sits in an area affected by a drought
A child sits in an area affected by a drought in the southern outskirts of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, in 2016. In the same area this September, the Honduran government declared a state of emergency because of drought as 290 municipalities are on the verge of running out of food. (Photo: Orlando Sierra/Stringer/Getty Images)

An analysis released Tuesday warns that 17 countries which are collectively home to a quarter of the global population face “extremely high water stress” that is on track to get worse—particularly because of the human-caused climate emergency.

The data is part of the World Resources Institute’s (WRI) Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, a publicly available database and interactive tool designed to enhance global understanding of water scarcity, which WRI calls “one of the defining issues of the 21st century.” 

“The newly updated Aqueduct tools allow users to better see and understand water risks and make smart decisions to manage them,” WRI president and CEO Andrew Steer said in a statement. “A new generation of solutions is emerging, but nowhere near fast enough. Failure to act will be massively expensive in human lives and livelihoods.”

“Water stress is the biggest crisis no one is talking about,” said Steer. “Its consequences are in plain sight in the form of food insecurity, conflict and migration, and financial instability.”

The WRI statement noted that “the world has seen a string of water crises in recent years, as what’s now known as ‘Day Zero’—the day when the taps run dry—has threatened major cities from Cape Town to São Paolo to Chennai.”

Betsy Otto, who directs WRI’s global water program, told The New York Times that “we’re likely to see more of these Day Zeros in the future.”

Otto, speaking to The Guardian, added that “our populations and economies are growing and demanding more water. But our supply is threatened by climate change, water waste, and pollution.”

In a blog post announcing the new data, WRI outlined three ways that communities and countries around the world can reduce water stress, regardless of where they rank on the group’s list:

  • Increase agricultural efficiency by using seeds and irrigation techniques that require less water, investing in developing technology that improves farming, and cutting back on food loss and waste;
  • Invest in “grey”and “green” infrasturcture, improving everything from pipes and treatment plants to wetlands and watersheds.
  • Treat, reuse, and recycle “wastewater.”

The blog explained that countries rank at WRI’s highest level for water stress if their “irrigated agriculture, industries, and municipalities withdraw more than 80 percent of their available supply on average every year.”

A dozen of the top-ranked countries are located in the Middle East and North Africa. “The region is hot and dry, so water supply is low to begin with,” wrote WRI, “but growing demands have pushed countries further into extreme stress.”

India, which has a population exceeding 1.3 billion, also ranks among the most water-stressed nations.

Shashi Shekhar—former secretary of India’s Ministry of Water Resources and a senior fellow at WRI India—noted that “the recent water crisis in Chennai gained global attention, but various areas in India are experiencing chronic water stress as well.”

“India can manage its water risk with the help of reliable and robust data pertaining to rainfall, surface, and groundwater to develop strategies that strengthen resilience,” Shekhar said. “Aqueduct can help identify and prioritize water risks in India and around the world.”

Behind the 17 nations at WRI’s top level are 44 countries—collectively home to another third of the world’s population—that face “high” water stress, withdrawing on average more than 40 percent of their available supply annually.

However, as WRI’s blog post pointed out, “pockets of extreme water stress exist even in countries with low overall water stress.”

“For example, South Africa and the United States rank #48 and #71 on WRI’s list, respectively, yet the Western Cape (the state home to Cape Town) and New Mexico experience extremely high stress levels,” the group explained. “The populations in these two states rival those of entire nations on the list of most water-stressed countries.”

US water stress

“The data is clear: There are undeniably worrying trends in water,” WRI concluded. “But by taking action now and investing in better management, we can solve water issues for the good of people, economies and the planet.”

See the group’s full ranking—which is based on United Nations member countries and does not include some small island nations due to model limitations—below:

WRI water stress rankings
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Water increasing scarcity in Saudi Arabia

Water increasing scarcity in Saudi Arabia

The Rockfeller Foundation supported CitiesRuth Michaelson wrote from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Tue 6 Aug 2019 the following article that elaborates on water increasing scarcity in Saudi Arabia and how despite that, life carries on somehow unaffected.

Oil built Saudi Arabia – will a lack of water destroy it?

As Riyadh continues to build skyscrapers at a dizzying rate, an invisible emergency threatens the desert kingdom’s existence

Irrigation canals in Saudi Arabia channel fresh water from deep wells and desalination plants to farms and homes.
 Irrigation canals in Saudi Arabia channel fresh water from deep wells and desalination plants to farms and homes. Photograph: Tom Hanley/Alamy

Bottles of water twirl on the conveyor belts of the Berain water factory in Riyadh, as a puddle of water collects on the concrete floor. In a second warehouse, tanks emit a low hum as water brought in from precious underground aquifers passes through a six-stage purification process before bottling.

“In Saudi Arabia, there are only two sources of water: the sea and deep wells,” says Ahmed Safar Al Asmari, who manages one of Berain’s two factories in Riyadh. “We’re in the central region, so there are only deep wells here.”

Most water withdrawn comes from fossil deep aquifers and predictions suggest these may not last more than 25 years: UN

Perhaps not surprising for someone who makes a living selling water, Asmari professes to be untroubled about the future of Saudi Arabia’s water supply. “Studies show water in some reserves can stand consumption for another 150 years,” he says. “In Saudi Arabia, we have many reserves – we have no problems in this area.”

His confident predictions are out of sync with the facts. One Saudi groundwater expert at King Faisal University predicted in 2016 that the kingdom only had another 13 years’ worth of groundwater reserves left.

“Groundwater resources of Saudi Arabia are being depleted at a very fast rate,” declared the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation as far back as 2008. “Most water withdrawn comes from fossil deep aquifers, and some predictions suggest that these resources may not last more than about 25 years.”

Fans spray water on Muslim pilgrims around the Grand Mosque in the run up to the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
 Fans spray water on Muslim pilgrims around the Grand Mosque in the run up to the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Photograph: Dar Yasin/AP

In a country that rarely sees rain, the habit of draining groundwater, like the Berain factory does, could prove perilous: groundwater makes up an estimated 98% of naturally occurring fresh water in Saudi Arabia.

Indeed, oil may have built the modern Saudi state, but a lack of water could destroy it if drastic solutions aren’t found soon.

The emergency seems invisible in Riyadh, which is undergoing a construction boom as more buildings creep upwards to join a collection of towering skyscrapers.

It’s the desert. Obviously, water is a natural constraint by Dr Rebecca Keller

Although everyone knows this city in the desert owes its existence to the discovery of oil in 1938, fewer realise water was just as important. Decades of efforts to make the desert bloom to feed the city’s population have resulted in agricultural projects to grow water-intensive crops such as wheat, on farmland meted out to figures favoured by the royal family.

While many questions the accuracy of the kingdom’s optimistic estimates of its own oil reserves, the looming threat of a lack of water could prove to be an even bigger problem. Saudi Arabia consumes double the world average of water per person, 263 litres per capita each day and rising, amid a changing climate that will strain water reserves.

Saudi Arabia leads the world in the volume of desalinated water it produces, and now operates 31 desalination plants such as the one pictured, located outside Riyadh.
 Saudi Arabia leads the world in the volume of desalinated water it produces, and now operates 31 desalination plants such as the one pictured, located outside Riyadh. Photograph: Fahad Shadeed/Reuters

In March, the Kingdom launched the Qatrah programme to demand citizens drastically cut their water use. Its aim is to ration water to 200 litres per person per day by 2020 and 150 litres by 2030.

It has also tried to reform the water-hungry agriculture industry, reducing government incentives for cereal production. The overall amount of irrigated farmland still hasn’t declined, though, as producers switch to more profitable crops that still require large amounts of water. Almarai, a major food producer, has begun buying up deserted land in the US, on plots near Los Angeles and in Arizona, and in Argentina, in order to grow water-rich alfalfa to feed its dairy cows.

The Saudi Arabian National Transformation Plan, also known as Vision 2020 – a subset of the Vision 2030 initiative intended to diversify the Kingdom’s economy away from oil – aims to reduce the amount of water pulled from underground aquifers for use in agriculture. It seeks to employ 191% of these water resources for farming, down from the current estimates of 416% of water available.

“This means that Saudi Arabia is using more than four times the water that renews on average – and that’s in Vision 2020,” says Dr Rebecca Keller from Stratfor – a private intelligence and geopolitical analysis firm – who says she was shocked after learning about the country’s water use. “Technically they’re using fossil water, which renews at a really, really slow rate. The sheer volume of overuse stood out to me.”

Desalinating sea water has long been seen as a silver bullet against the growing threat of water shortages across the Middle East. Saudi Arabia leads the world in the volume of desalinated water it produces and now operates 31 desalination plants. Desalinated water, as distinct from naturally occurring fresh water, makes up 50% of water consumed in Saudi Arabia. The remaining 50% is pulled from groundwater.

Changing water consumption habits remains the toughest challenge for Saudi Arabia.
 Changing water consumption habits remains the toughest challenge for Saudi Arabia. Photograph: Hasan Jamali/AP

It comes as at a high-energy cost, however. According to the International Energy Agency, in 2016 desalination accounted for 3% of the Middle East’s water supply but 5% of its overall energy cost. Researchers at King Abdelaziz University in Jeddah estimate that the demand for desalinated water increases by roughly 14% each year, but add that “desalination is a very costly process and is not sustainable”. Desalination plants also harm the surrounding environment, pumping pollutants into the air and endangering marine ecosystems with their run-off.

A recent push towards using solar power rather than fossil fuels to desalinate means that the first commercial plant is expected to be up and running at 2021 at the earliest, although it reportedly remains behind schedule.

Keller says Saudi Arabia’s evolving use of desalination technology could also alter their relationship with other countries in the region, in particular, Israel. “They’re producing the most cutting-edge technology for desalination, especially at scale,” she said. “As we see [both countries] having more geopolitical things in common in terms of their attitude to Iran, there’s more room for this relationship to grow, and the Saudi water sector is something that could benefit from this cooperation.”

The toughest challenge of all remains switching consumption habits to avoid an impending water emergency. The kingdom is pressing ahead with its Red Sea Project, a tourism haven the size of Belgium that aims to attract a million visitors annually to its unspoiled beaches and 50 new hotels. Such mammoth construction means growing water use, with current estimates that the string of resorts will use 56,000 cubic metres of water per day.

“It’s the desert,” said Keller. “Obviously water is a natural constraint.”

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Turkey starts filling huge Tigris river dam

Turkey starts filling huge Tigris river dam

Reuters’ ENVIRONMENT reported on August 2, 2019, that Turkey starts filling huge Tigris river dam, activists say in an article by Ali Kucukgocmen.

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey has started filling a huge hydroelectric dam on the Tigris river, a lawmaker and activists said, despite protests that it will displace thousands of people and risks creating water shortages downstream in Iraq.

FILE PHOTO: A general view of the ancient town of Hasankeyf by the Tigris river, which will be significantly submerged by the Ilisu dam being constructed, in southeastern Turkey, June 1, 2019. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Citing satellite images, they said that water was starting to build up behind the Ilisu dam, a project that has been decades in the making and which aims to generate 1,200 megawatts of electricity for southeast Turkey.

Turkish officials have not commented on work at the dam. Turkey’s State Hydraulic Works (DSI), which oversees dam projects, referred questions to the Presidency, and the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry was not available to comment.

However, President Tayyip Erdogan said earlier this year that Turkey would start filling the Ilisu dam in June, a year after it briefly held backwater before backing down following complaints from Iraq about reduced water flows in mid-summer.

The dam, which first gained Turkish government approval in 1997, is a key part of Turkey’s Southeastern Anatolia Project, designed to improve its poorest and least developed region.

FILE PHOTO: The Tigris river flows through the ancient town of Hasankeyf, which will be significantly submerged by the Ilisu dam being constructed, in southeastern Turkey, August 26, 2018. REUTERS/Sertac Kayar

Iraq says the dam will create water shortages by reducing flows in one of two rivers which the country depends on for much of its supplies. Around 70% of Iraq’s water supplies flow from neighboring countries, especially via the Tigris and Euphrates rivers which run through Turkey.

Satellite images from the past two weeks show the dam has started holding water, said Necdet Ipekyuz, a lawmaker from Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). He said a road in the area has already been submerged.

“They are taking steps slowly to decrease the reactions to water being held. That is why they are not informing the public,” he said, adding that several HDP lawmakers tried to visit the dam in July but were prevented by police.

Environmental campaigners have unsuccessfully challenged the dam project at the European Court of Human Rights on the grounds it would damage the country’s cultural heritage.

SUBMERGED TOWN

The rising waters of the dam are also expected to eventually submerge the 12,000-year-old town of Hasankeyf. Residents are being moved from the ancient town to a “New Hasankeyf” nearby, while historic artefacts have also been transported out of the area.

A group of NGOs, lawmakers and labor unions shared satellite images of the dam showing the increase in water levels between July 19-29.

“The current situation is strengthening the idea that the valves have been closed permanently,” the group, known as Hasankeyf Coordination, said in a statement.

“Because the dam lake is growing every day, the people who live in these areas are worried. They cannot know when the water will reach their residential or agricultural areas.”

The Iraqi government said in a statement that Turkish and Iraqi officials had discussed the water resources of the two rivers in Baghdad on Wednesday to see how they could “serve the interests of both countries”.

Turkey proposed setting up a joint research center in Baghdad for water management and to work together on some agriculture plantations in Iraq, as well as projects for development of drinking water infrastructure. FILE PHOTO: The Tigris river flows through the ancient town of Hasankeyf, which will be significantly submerged by the Ilisu dam being constructed, in southeastern Turkey, August 26, 2018. REUTERS/Sertac Kayar

The European Court of Human Rights in February dismissed the case brought by environmental campaigners to block the dam project, saying heritage protection is the responsibility of Turkish authorities and it had no jurisdiction.

The government needs to make an announcement, even if the dam were being filled for a trial run, said HDP’s Ipekyuz. “They are trying to tie a belt around the Tigris river’s neck and suffocate it,” he said.

Additional reporting by John Davison and Ahmed Aboulenein in Baghdad; Editing by Dominic Evans and Susan Fenton

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Land degradation impacting all Countries

Land degradation impacting all Countries

IPS News in their Combating Desertification and Drought in a post reproduced here holds that the issue of land degradation impacting all countries in all continents would require governments, land users and all different communities of a country to be part of the solution.

There’s No Continent, No Country Not Impacted by Land Degradation

By Desmond Brown

On all continents you have the issue of land degradation, and it requires governments, land users and all different communities in a country to be part of the solution. Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah /IPS

ANKARA, Jun 17 2019 (IPS) – The coming decades will be crucial in shaping and implementing a transformative land agenda, according to a scientist at the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) framework for Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN).

UNCCD-Science Policy Interface co-chair Dr. Mariam Akhtar-Schuster, who spoke with IPS ahead of the start of activities to mark World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) on Monday, Jun. 17, said this was one of the key messages emerging for policy- and other decision-makers.

This comes after the dire warnings in recent publications on desertification, land degradation and drought of the Global Land OutlookIntergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Assessment Report on Land Degradation and Restoration, World Atlas of Desertification, and IPBES Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

“The main message is: things are not improving. The issue of desertification is becoming clearer to different communities, but we now have to start implementing the knowledge that we already have to combat desertification,” Akhtar-Schuster told IPS.

“It’s not only technology that we have to implement, it is the policy level that has to develop a governance structure which supports sustainable land management practices.”

IPBES Science and Policy for People and Nature found that the biosphere and atmosphere, upon which humanity as a whole depends, have been deeply reconfigured by people.

The report shows that 75 percent of the land area is very significantly altered, 66 percent of the ocean area is experiencing increasing cumulative impacts, and 85 percent of the wetland area has been lost.

“There are of course areas which are harder hit; these are areas which are experiencing extreme drought which makes it even more difficult to sustainably use land resources,” Akhtar-Schuster said.

“On all continents you have the issue of land degradation, so there’s no continent, there’s no country which can just lean back and say this is not our issue. Everybody has to do something.”

Akhtar-Schuster said there is sufficient knowledge out there which already can support evidence-based implementation of technology so that at least land degradation does not continue.

While the information is available, Akhtar-Schuster said it requires governments, land users and all different communities in a country to be part of the solution.

“There is no top-down approach. You need the people on the ground, you need the people who generate knowledge and you need the policy makers to implement that knowledge. You need everybody,” the UNCCD-SPI co-chair said.

“Nobody in a community, in a social environment, can say this has nothing to do with me. We are all consumers of products which are generated from land. So, we in our daily lives – the way we eat, the way we dress ourselves – whatever we do has something to do with land, and we can take decisions which are more friendly to land than what we’re doing at the moment.”

UNCCD-Science Policy Interface co-chair Dr. Mariam Akhtar-Schuster says things are not improving and that the issue of desertification is becoming clearer to different communities. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

UNCCD Lead Scientist Dr. Barron Joseph Orr said it’s important to note that while the four major assessments were all done for different reasons, using different methodologies, they are all converging on very similar messages.

He said while in the past land degradation was seen as a problem in a place where there is overgrazing or poor management practices on agricultural lands, the reality is, that’s not influencing the change in land.

“What’s very different from the past is the rate of land transformation. The pace of that change is considerable, both in terms of conversion to farm land and conversion to built-up areas,” Orr told IPS.

“We’ve got a situation where 75 percent of the land surface of the earth has been transformed, and the demand for food is only going to go up between now and 2050 with the population growth expected to increase one to two billion people.”

That’s a significant jump. Our demand for energy that’s drawn from land, bio energy, or the need for land for solar and wind energy is only going to increase but these studies are making it clear that we are not optimising our use,” Orr added.

Like Akhtar-Schuster, Orr said it’s now public knowledge what tools are necessary to sustainably manage agricultural land, and to restore or rehabilitate land that has been degraded.

“We need better incentives for our farmers and ranchers to do the right thing on the landscape, we have to have stronger safeguards for tenures so that future generations can continue that stewardship of the land,” he added.

The international community adopted the Convention to Combat Desertification in Paris on Jun. 17, 1994.

On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Convention and the World Day to Combat Desertification in 2019 (#2019WDCD), UNCCD will look back and celebrate the 25 years of progress made by countries on sustainable land management.

At the same time, they will look at the broad picture of the next 25 years where they will achieve land degradation neutrality.

The anniversary campaign runs under the slogan “Let’s grow the future together,” with the global observance of WDCD and the 25th anniversary of the Convention on Jun. 17, hosted by the government of Turkey.

Related IPS Articles

Biodiversity, Climate Change, Combating Desertification and Drought, Conferences, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Global, Headlines, Regional Categories, Sustainability, TerraViva United Nations

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Trash: A major Environmental Issue in Libya

Trash: A major Environmental Issue in Libya

Trash: A major Environmental Issue in Libya published by YaLa Press is meant to obviously shed some light on the disastrous situation of the Libyan environment all within the geopolitical context. Here is that article with our thanks to the author and courtesy to Yala Press.

World Environment Day

5th June is a platform for action environment day every year. This day reminds us of the urge to protect our environment. In order to encourage worldwide awareness to save our beautiful and green planet, on this day, hundreds of organizations and millions of civilians will urge governments, industries, communities, and individuals to come together and raise awareness to keep our planet safe place.

Planet Earth is a beautiful place. It’s also the only planet we have, and we want to make sure that we do what needs to be done to keep it safe, healthy, cared for, and respected.

Humans are the only creatures on Earth that will cut down a tree, turn it into paper, then write “save the trees “on it. Imagine if the trees would give off WiFi signals, we would be planting so many trees and we’d probably save the planet too. It’s not your personal toy, nor mine. It is ours! So, protect the mother who nourishes you. Plants can survive without humans, but humans can not survive without plants. Environment day means to protect all the natural sources, plants, water, forests etc…

We never know the worth of water till the well is dry, the water in your toilet is cleaner than what nearly a billion people have to drink elsewhere on the same Earth.

Try to keep this blessing safe from pollution. Think green, stay healthy, and save this wealth. To live in a beautiful and clean environment.

Happy Environment day!

Trash: A major Environmental Issue in Libya

    One of the most annoying and serious environmental issues in Libya is the crisis trash. The clean environment brings fresh air and saves nature.  Our nature needs to be protected for a healthy life, and for us and for the animals. The ignorance of such an issue will always increase the danger that we give to our country and with no doubts will enhance the cause of diseases. No one ever wants to walk down the streets and passes trashes. No one wants to kick cans and plastics bottles while walking on shores.   For years now, neither the government nor the people, or even the waste companies could find an ending solution for this trouble. The streets in the capital are almost full of trashes. The roads, pavements, in front of schools and near the blocks of flats all have piles of trash. The scenery cannot be bearable anymore and it does not show the area in an urban view.

     Despite the individual attempts to fix this issue in the capital; Tripoli, this trouble has no end. People do not have any ideas about where to put their garbage, as a result, the waste solids are thrown everywhere. I have noticed while I was walking in the streets that those who live in houses they put their garbage near their houses with hope the waste companies come and collect it. Others who live in flats they throw it down the building or near the streets. Some they are just satisfied with throwing the trash wherever they could put it- on the pavements, near the beaches or wherever they can put trashes.

     Consequently, the government does not try to recycle or export plastic or paper waste, so they are starting to pile up randomly. And for sure, this is not a pretension to put the trash anywhere but there is no another way.  This scene we see every day at our streets, in front of our schools, universities, near our gardens, in the highways, on beaches and almost at every single step we take. We see cans, papers and plastic rubbish are thrown with no care about nature, the heath, or even showing any ethical value for doing such a horrible thing. The serious solution should be taken before making this trouble more dangerous. This is a dangerous threat of many living species on our land. Not all of us know how this trash we throw ends up. Plastic needs a long time to be mouldered. Plastic can float on the surface of the sea for centuries! Plastic can be eaten by any animals accidentally and animals cannot digest plastic which it stays in their stomach and intestines for years until it causes for their death.

    Although we need to use these materials; paper, plastic, iron cans … etc. for our daily life, using such materials improperly will lead to damage the environmental balance. We create these materials, we need them and we are responsible for any harm we cause. Our nature and animals do not need the paper or plastic, so we must not throw them randomly everywhere and ask nature to just simply use them or let the animals eat them. In other words, humans need nature very much, without it we cannot succeed to keep our life on the planet. Ignorance or contributing of throwing the trash at inappropriate places is a crime against our nature, our lands and our health.

    To sum up, we are destroying our nature with no worries. In Libya, trash is estimated to kills our environment and we help to damage it. It is not an excuse that we cannot find a solution. We can have special places to collect the whole trash at. Or we can start to export it to other countries where we can recycle it and use it for other things. Recycling is one of the perfect solutions and the most protective one. On the other hand, we need to take a series of action towards this and help our environment.

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Holistic and long-term solutions for Peace and Sustainability

Holistic and long-term solutions for Peace and Sustainability

Rather than resisting the securitization of climate, advocates and policymakers should be promoting the climatization of security. This means highlighting the shortcomings of current security frameworks and promoting gender inclusiveness and local leadership as holistic and long-term solutions for peace and sustainability.

This May 23, 2019 article of Alaa MurabitLuca Bücken and delivered by Project Syndicate must take many by surprise, mostly because of its angle of vision of the world’s predominant issue of climate change.

Image result for The Myth of Climate Wars?

The Myth of Climate Wars?

NEW YORK – In the years leading up to Syria’s civil war, the country endured three consecutive record-breaking droughts. By forcing internal displacement, the droughts arguably contributed to the social tensions that erupted in popular protests in 2011. But that does not mean that the Syrian conflict is a “climate war.”

As extreme weather events proliferate, it’s becoming increasingly easy to find a link between climate change and violent confrontations. In Sudan, the ethnic cleansing carried out by former President Omar al-Bashir has been tied to the Sahara Desert’s southward expansion, which fueled social unrest by exacerbating food insecurity. Territorial disputes in the South China Sea have also been connected to food-security concerns, rooted in competition over access to fishing areas. Some now warn of a “brewing water war” between Egypt and Ethiopia, triggered by the latter’s construction of a dam on the Nile River.

But the “climate war” narrative is deeply flawed. From Syria to Sudan, today’s conflicts are the result of multiple complicated and interrelated factors, from ethno-religious tensions to protracted political repression. While the effects of climate change can exacerbate social and political instability, climate change did not cause these wars. This nuance is important, not least for the sake of accountability: climate change must not be used to duck responsibility for resolving or averting violent confrontations.

Still, military and climate experts argue, climate change is a “threat multiplier,” and thus remains an important national security issue. Climate advocates and academics, however, have long avoided or rejected discussions of “climate security” – not to diminish the risks that climate change poses, but because they fear that framing climate change as a security issue will undermine efforts to mitigate those risks, by enabling the incremental securitization of climate action.

Securitization is often a political tactic, in which leaders construct a security threat to justify deploying extraordinary, even illegal measures, that infringe on people’s rights. If the fight against climate change is securitized, it could, for example, be used to rationalize new restrictions on the movement of people, enabled by and reinforcing anti-migrant sentiment.

Framing climate as a security issue can also challenge already-strained international cooperation on climate governance while driving investment away from necessary interventions – such as the shift to a low-carbon economy – toward advancing military preparedness. The accompanying apocalyptic discourse, moreover, could well lead to public disengagement, further weakening democratic accountability.

Yet, even as some United Nations member states express concern about linking climate change more closely to security, most countries are moving in precisely that direction. In 2013, the American Security Project reported that 70% of countries view climate change as a threat to their security, and at least 70 national militaries already have clear plans in place to address this threat.

The UN Security Council is also becoming more active in the climate security field. After recognizing the role of climate change in the Lake Chad conflict (Resolution 2349), the Council held its first debates on the relationship between climate change and security, with the participation of a large and diverse group of member states.

Given the impact of climate change on issues like migration and health, decoupling discussions of climate action from national security considerations may never have been feasible. On the other hand, linking climate change to security can positively contribute to mobilizing climate action. The key to avoiding the pitfalls of securitization is to move beyond paradigms – which overemphasize military-focused “hard security” narratives – that continue to shape security policy and public discourse. One way to achieve that is to take a more gender-inclusive approach to conflict prevention and resolution.

Research shows that women are more likely to pursue a collaborative approach to peacemaking, with actors organizing across ethnic, cultural, and sectarian divides. Such an approach “increases the prospects of long-term stability and reduces the likelihood of state failure, conflict onset, and poverty.” When women participate in peace negotiations, the resulting agreements are 35% more likely to last at least 15 years.

Sustainable peace is possible only by recognizing the necessity of local women’s leadership, who have relevant expertise and yet are currently excluded from national and multilateral frameworks. After all, if policy decisions are to meet the needs of the affected communities, members of those communities must have a seat at the table.

For example, in Indonesia, Farwiza Farhan has acquired unique insights from years of facilitating community-inclusive forest conversation that respects local stakeholders. In Somalia, Ilwad Elman has proved her ability to navigate intersectional peace-building efforts through her organization, Elman Peace.

Of course, there is also an imperative to give more women the tools they need to join in this process. The interconnections identified in the UN Sustainable Development Goals provide a functional roadmap for delivering the needed equity. In particular, improving reproductive health (SDG 3) and education (SDG 4) of girls and women is one of the most cost-effective ways both to mitigate climate change (SDG 13) and to empower them as community leaders (SDG 5).

Rather than resisting the securitization of climate, advocates and policymakers should be advancing what the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute calls “the climatization of security.” This is best done by using security to increase the salience of climate action, highlighting the shortcomings of current security frameworks, and promoting gender inclusiveness and local leadership as holistic and long-term solutions for fostering local, regional, and international peace.

Luca Bücken is a policy adviser and strategist who focuses on migration, security, climate, and justice.

Alaa Murabit, a medical doctor and Executive Director of Phase Minus 1, is one of 17 Sustainable Development Goals Advocates appointed by the UN Secretary General.