The G7 summit recently held in Cornwall ended with little cause for celebration. The leaders of the world’s biggest democracies didn’t agree on either new funding to help poorer countries cope with climate change, or on any prodigious plan to confront a problem currently taking shape in the form of the usual summer wildfires and the disturbing 49.6°C recently recorded in British Columbia.
It’s not like nobody warned them. When even the military is pointing to the scale of the crisis, you might think states would take proper notice. Ahead of the G7 and NATO meetings, the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS) – a group of senior military leaders, security experts and security institutions dedicated to anticipating, analysing and addressing the security risks of a changing climate – released its annual World Climate and Security Report.
'Climate change already poses significant risks to global security. It is time to act,’ said General Tom Middendorp, former chief of defence of the Netherlands and IMCCS chair. ‘As this report shows, more and more military leaders are raising the alarm.’ In a nutshell, the report argues that the increasing pace and intensity of climate threats will strain military and security services as they are called upon to respond to climate-driven crises. According to the surveyed experts, high-to-catastrophic levels of security risk from climate change may arise as soon as 2031, with increased natural disasters, forced displacement, changes to precipitation and more.
At the end of its meeting in Brussels, NATO admitted that ‘climate change is a threat multiplier that impacts Alliance security’ and stated that it 'will consider’ a target to reduce its net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050. While the idea of sustainable military operations may sound like an oxymoron, it’s certainly a valuable proposition. But obviously it isn’t enough.
G7 countries bear significant responsibility for long-term cumulative emissions, counting the first carbon polluter in history (the UK) and the biggest one (the USA) among their ranks. As the IMCCS suggests, it’s time for them to come up with something extraordinary – something like the Marshall Plan, the huge flow of money from the USA to European countries after the Second World War. In short, we need something grandiose and commensurate with the gravity of the situation that would actually go down in history as an intelligent move.