Securitization of Climate Change- Issues for Global and National Security
The Energy and Resources Institute and the India Office of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung aim to bring
together a diverse set of perspectives on aspects of global security by involving experts through research
and dialogue; the experts range from scientists to practitioners drawn from the domains of climate
change, governance and security. The objective of this policy study is to discuss various aspects of
‘securitization of climate change’, which include non-traditional security, external security, internal
security and political dynamics. The initiative aims to serve the constructivist function of informing the
discussion on securitization of climate change in India and all over the world.
Realists in international literature consider non-traditional security issues such as anthropogenic climate
change, pandemics and food security as second-order problems especially for the major security powers
of the world. Responses to the COVID-19 pandemic illustrate how a non-traditional security issue is of
traditional security concern. Security establishments are actively involved in activities such as rescue,
control, prevention and even cure.
The United States Department of Defense, for instance, has army researchers who are working and
collaborating to develop rapid COVID-19 testing technology and vaccines. India has also invoked the
provisions of the Disaster Management Authority Act 2005 to treat COVID-19 as a national disaster and
undertake measures, in coordination with state governments, for rescue, relief and rehabilitation.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1625 of 2005 has broadened the role of the UNSC
by adding conflict prevention through addressing ‘root causes’ in its ambit. In the five UNSC open debates
that have transpired so far, China and the Russian Federation have opposed while France and the United
Kingdom have supported the UNSC dealing with climate change as a security threat. The United States of
America has been ambiguous on this aspect. All participating members of the European Union and the
Pacific Small Island Developing States, and a majority of the Alliance of Small Island States favour UNSC
dealing with climate security concerns. A majority of the member states of the Group of 77 and the Non-
Aligned Movement have opposed the legitimization of the UNSC in dealing with climate change.
Emerging narratives position climate change and security using three rationales. First, in terms of
‘adaptation’ as climate change and environmental changes pose significant risks for the traditional
security structures themselves. Second as ‘disaster response mechanism’ where armed forces need to be
well trained and equipped to ensure that humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and non-combatant
evacuation operations are provided on a timely basis. Third, in terms of ‘conflict mitigation’ as nontraditional
security challenges can lead to disasters and environmental degradation which in turn could
lead to disasters hence requiring traditional security structures. The first two rationales are more widely
accepted in countries while the third rationale (conflict mitigation) is still not supported with evidence.
Traditional security may not be an inclusive way of approaching climate change but then again, traditional
external and internal security institutions cannot be discounted. Security structures at the national level
may need to be deployed fully towards objectives of adaptation and disaster response. However,
international goals, given the aspect of historical responsibilities for climate change, will not be served by
securitisation but through equitable norms of international cooperation.