Debate

Climate change is ignored in Swedish defense and security policy

The security consequences of climate change are one of the defense and security policy challenges that are now often mentioned in background analyzes, but which have not had any impact on the policies pursued. That is the opinion of Malin Mobjörk, Phil. dr. and research leader at the Swedish Defense Research Agency (FOI).

The threat to defense and security has been broadened, but the significance of this expansion has not had an impact on the policy pursued. The security consequences of climate change are one of the broader defense and security policy challenges that are often mentioned in background analyzes, but which are rarely translated into practical action. One reason for this seems to be that security challenges differ depending on perspective. The security challenges thus become important for several policy areas where no one can be said to have a direct interpretive precedence.

To understand the security challenges that climate change leads to, we need to consider how they affect people's living conditions. A changing climate affects the earth's ecosystems and societies in a number of different ways. These include rising average temperatures, changes in precipitation, melting of glaciers, rising sea levels and more extreme weather events. These changes affect, among other things, fresh water resources and food production and have health effects. The consequences that follow depend on a combination of vulnerability and vulnerability. This means that one and the same stress can have significantly different consequences depending on the context. Vulnerability to the effects of climate change is also dependent on other conditions in society.

How, then, are climate change linked to security consequences? Here you must first take a position on what is meant by security and whose safety is in focus. The definition of security on which an analysis is based governs what kind of conclusions can be drawn. Despite this, there are few studies that describe the perspective they have taken from and what significance it has for the analysis. Similarly, there are few studies that deal with the connections that exist between different perspectives on security.

Research has shown that the consequences of climate change primarily affect already vulnerable individuals, ie people who have limited financial assets and who are dependent on the surrounding natural resources for their daily subsistence. But negative consequences do not stop there, but the security of the individual is also connected with the security and functionality of the state. A state that is strongly dependent on natural resources, such as food production, is also affected if food production is reduced in the country. This can lead to a downward spiral as reduced economic growth, due to the loss of food production, has effects on the state's room for maneuver, which in turn can affect society's ability to meet the challenges posed by climate change. There is thus a complex interaction between the individual and the state where climate change directly and indirectly affects their different conditions for security.

Although the example above is greatly simplified, it highlights the relevance of different perspectives on security in the analysis and the interaction between them. I believe that climate change entails such radical changes in the conditions in which we humans live that a security-oriented analysis of its consequences cannot be reduced to a single perspective on security. Instead, we need to start from different perspectives, including the individual, the state and the region to name a few, as well as to understand how they interact. It is also important to understand that many of the security consequences will not arise as a direct consequence of a particular event, but will occur through indirect connections and in interaction with other societal processes. This means that there will always be uncertainties. However, these uncertainties are not about the question itself, that is, whether climate change has security consequences, but about our inability to be able to predict exactly what the consequences will be, where and when.

How, then, can a fruitful safety-oriented analysis be made? How should the security consequences of climate change have a practical significance in Swedish politics? The starting point needs to be that this safety-oriented analysis includes different perspectives on safety and also the interaction between the different perspectives. But even if the security-oriented analysis needs to be based on different perspectives on security, the practical policy needs to be formulated on the basis of a moral and ideological stance. This position should then be about the safety of the individual. We know that climate change will primarily affect those already vulnerable and vulnerable. The policy that is formulated must therefore be based on reducing the risks of humanitarian suffering and disasters. This requires preventive work, which requires cross-border policies, both between policies and between nations. We therefore need a clear interaction between different policy areas, including defense policy, foreign and security policy, environmental policy and development and aid policy. An interaction that now shines with its absence.

Malin Mobjörk, Phil. dr. and on a daily basis works as a research leader at the Swedish Defense Research Agency, FOI

This is a debate article. The author is responsible for analysis and opinions in the text.

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