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Armed forces

Predicting conflicts

by Sheila Mysorekar

In brief

Libyan tank taken over by a rebel group

Libyan tank taken over by a rebel group

The security situation of a region depends on many things: hostility between countries, border conflicts, religious strife; but environmental issues matter too. Scarcer resources due to a deteriorating global climate may have serious security impli­cations. By Sheila Mysorekar

The effects of climate change can only be judged in their context – political, economical and social. In a country that relies heavily on climate-intensive sectors like agriculture or tourism, any long-term meteorological change can cause serious income losses and therefore upheaval. Predicting the effects of climate change in a particular region of the world is a tricky business, though, since neither the course of climate change nor the multiple and complex factors in any given country can be foreseen with any precision.

Germany’s armed forces (Bundeswehr) have a Department for Future Development Analysis. Its scientists and security experts assess the political dimensions of climate change, particularly in regard to developing countries. Since many of the nations concerned will struggle to cope with the impacts, the experts expect security consequences to be especially pronounced. Identifying early signs of danger, they argue, is crucial for designing and implementing stabilisation efforts, including multilateral military operations with a UN mandate.

In late October, the Bundeswehr team published a study on the implications of global warming in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA region). This part of the world lacks water, and is likely to be particularly hard hit by global warming. Any potential destabilisation could have a bearing on Germany and its allies, the Bundeswehr experts acknowledge. Their report looks at three key questions:
– How could climate change jeopardise stability in the MENA region?
– What impact would that have on Germany, the EU and NATO?
– Which role might the Bundeswehr play in this context?

According to the study, political upheaval like the Arab spring can develop in very different ways. The experts have drafted a variety of regional scenarios for the next 30 years. They consider the possibility of dynamic democratic governments as well as the possibility of stalled development. Other key factors the authors took into account include education and the level of urbanisation.

Climate change, the study assumes, is likely to lead to more migration since farmers will leave their land as the con­ditions for agriculture worsen. Managing migration in the Mediterranean in co­operation with MENA governments is one of the coming challenges for the EU, the authors maintain (please note essay by Steffen Angenendt on p. 460 ff.).

They point out, moreover, that stabilising a region is not a military task, but a social one. Accordingly, they do not expect the Bundeswehr to be deployed in MENA countries, except for supporting ­civilian activities designed to stabilise fragile settings. The worst case would be a roll-back, with an important country like Egypt, for instance, returning to anti-dem­o­cratic ways, and other MENA countries following suit.

Strengthening the overall resilience of MENA countries is the right way of preventing conflicts, the study claims. It lists several key issues where Germany and Europe can assist Arab countries, including food security, water and agricultural development, economic growth, energy and infrastructure, urbanisation and social inclusion. Identifying strategic early signs of danger is essential in order to push stabili­sation efforts.

Sheila Mysorekar