THE DESERT AND ADRIAN LANDSCAPE OF THE AFRICAN SAHEL, as well as the parched land of Sudan and northern Kenya, are far from the air-conditioned halls of world diplomacy. However, according to UN figures, the East and Horn of Africa region accounted for an estimated 12% of all new population displacements worldwide.
According to these figures from 2021, there will be over 1.2 million new disaster-related displacements and about 500,000 new conflict-related displacements. Floods and storms were the most responsible for internal disaster-related displacement, followed by droughts. The Irish government has sent €81 million in aid into the Horn of Africa as part of a broader campaign to intervene proactively in what is quickly becoming a catastrophic famine crisis.
Irish diplomats and soldiers, as well as former Minister for State for Development Aid Colm Brophy, returned with stories of causal links between the droughts and the ever-present scourge of tribal and Islamic insurgencies in the worst-affected regions of the Horn of Africa and the Sub-Saharan region. It is not the first time the Irish defence sector has mentioned the growing threat of climate change. Vice Admiral Mark Mellett, then Chief of Staff of the Irish Defence Forces, named it the greatest threat to Ireland in July 2021.
Any diplomat or military officer, regardless of origin, will discuss the difficulties in defending undersea critical infrastructure, air domain security, and cyber defences. But there is another impending concern in those debates, one that is growing at an alarming rate, and that is the threat of climate change-induced conflict. It was a persistent theme throughout The Journal's recent reporting trip to Brussels to address defence concerns and in the Consultative Forum on International Security.
"Climate change and environmental degradation pose increasing risks to international peace and security," according to the declaration. The report discovered that climate change's threat to security was already having an impact on food security, for example, and leading people to desperate measures to locate supplies. It is anticipated that by 2050, more than one billion people will lack access to clean water, soil degradation will reach 90%, and food consumption might climb by 60%.
According to the European Commission, negative actors throughout the world will use the turmoil created by further destabilisation to enhance their own interests. "Armed groups and organised crime networks, corrupt or authoritarian regimes, and other parties, including through environmental crime, can actively exploit climate and environmental-induced instability and resource scarcity."
"The latter has already become the fourth largest and fastest growing global crime sector, further accelerating the environmental crisis, including through unsustainable exploitation of natural resources," according to the study.
The European Union has already put major policy considerations in motion by publishing its Strategic Compass in March 2022, which sets plans to address current and emerging security threats. The document is part of a larger effort to detect and address dangers to the EU, as well as to make the union a "more assertive, credible, and decisive security provider."
According to sources within the European Commission's common defence and security policy community, documenting and implementing solutions to security challenges such as climate change is critical to that plan. The European Commission's Foreign Affairs communiqué this week stated that all states would face the problems of global warming, with no region immune to the threat.
The disaster/security paradigm must be incorporated into defence planning globally, considering capabilities development as well. Climate change implications on Irish security are being examined in a strategic plan expected to be released later this year. Military planners and government officials recognize the urgent need for action in addressing the approaching crisis caused by environmental changes in Sudan, northern Kenya, and beyond.