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Climate Change and Security Summary

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In ‘Climate Change, Human Security, and Violent Conflict’ by Jon Barnett and W. Neil Adger, the question of how much climate change truly works to influence human society is addressed. Based on historical data and past research, Barnett and Adger (2007) determined that of the many different concerns and considerations that arise from the issue of climate change, the greatest area of effect that climate change has on the human population is within the realm of human security. Due to the pressures that climate change places on the level of security held within society, causing increased stressors that work to further boost the likelihood for negative occurrences within human society, the most severe of which may be viewed as the increased prevalence of violent conflict (Barnett & Adger, 2007).

To better understand the risks associated with climate change, Barnett and Adger started with a discussion of the fact that ‘the changes now underway in the earth’s climate system have no precedent in the history of human civilization’ (p. 640). A review of the literature regarding climatological shifts is provided, along with a discussion of the fact that the first studies into the effects of these climatological changes on human society were those associated with the El Nino phenomenon. Barnett and Adger (2007) state that though studies have been done, sporadically, into this topic, the need for increased studies into the matter is now more prevalent than ever due to the more and more severe climatological shifts that are being seen.

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After setting a clear precedent for the concern being discussed, Barnett and Adger lead into the different ways in which climate change has already been shown to have direct and negative consequences on the current levels of security within human society, pointing out that ‘the way climate change can and does undermine human security varies across the world because entitlements to natural resources and services vary across space, and the social determinants of adaptive capacity are similarly varied’ (p. 641). The more industrialized the society, the less of an effect that climate change has on the current society, though this does not mean that no effect is present. For example, the more industrialized countries utilize irrigation systems, so that if a drought occurs, it is still possible to work to ensure the success of the majority of crops; other less developed countries and societies are unable to utilize such methods, meaning that the effects of drought within those areas will include famine and the like. In more industrialized countries, there are social services programs designed to assist individuals, working to ensure that they have enough food to eat; in less industrialized countries, such programs do not exist.

The less industrialized the country, the greater the effect of climate change within the society and on the levels of human security felt by the inhabitants. As a result of these decreases in human security, Barnett and Adger (2007) argue that the stressors within the community increase, and that blame is likely to be laid on those who have been unable to assist them, with hope placed in others who promise (even if they are not necessarily able to deliver) a better life with increased security. These shifts are distinctly political in nature, and due to these additional stressors, the threat of violence and the likelihood for violence is likely to continue to escalate until such an event occurs. As such, Barnett and Adger (2007) state that there is a distinct and prevalent need for increased research within these areas in order to work to determine the full scope of the effects of climate change on human society, ensuring that we, as a society are able to meet this never before faced challenge head on.

  • Barnett, Jon, and W. Neil Adger. “Climate Change, Human Security and Violent Conflict.” Political Geography 26.6 (2007): 639-55. Print.