Environmental Security as an Approach to Threats Posed

Climate change concerns and its effects on human security have characterised many international development debates (Barnett & Adger 2007; Barnett et al. 2010; Campbell 2009). In this debate, some researchers believe environmental issues do not share a direct relationship with human security issues, while other researchers say both concepts have a direct relationship.

Both views exist within one continuum of environmental security analysis. On one end is the traditional thinking (realist thinking) that proposes a limited conception of human security, which excluded environmental issues, while the other end of the continuum adopts a new and broad definition of human security, which includes climate change.

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This paper critically evaluates both arguments and shows that while it is important to acknowledge the changing nature of human security issues, people should understand how this new conception of human security issues interact with other discourses. To understand this fact, this paper first explains the new human security view.

New Human Security View
Proponents of the new human security view have widely used the concept to explain international politics and international peace (Barnett 2003; Kaplan 1994). For example, Busby (2007) and Mathews (1989) say we need to expand our definition of human security. They also say, for a long time, people have perceived security through lenses that do not show the new realities of climate change (Busby 2007; Mathews 1989).

Similarly, the United Nations (1987) says many countries are quickly realising that it is impossible to separate economic developmental from environmental issues. For example, many human activities have caused resource conflicts through environmental degradation, thereby threatening the bedrock that supports human cohesion (Webersik 2010).

The relationship between these two factors (environmental sustainability and human security) manifests in different ways. For example, the United Nations (1987) says poverty is both a cause and effect of environmental degradation.

Therefore, it is futile to understand both concepts in isolation. Such concerns led the UN to set up the 1983 World Commission on Environment and Development (it includes environmental factors in understanding human security).

Based on the above assertion, Mathews (1989) believes that environmental strains are eroding the boundaries that defined international borders, and national sovereignty. This view prompted him to highlight the need to change human production factors that have supported civilisation.

Mason (2005) also believes there is a strong need to understand human security issues through environmental lenses because this new framework recognises the danger that human societies face if they continue to ignore the impact of their economic activities. Relative to this view, Brown et al. (2008) say,

In recent years, our traditional ideas about security have unravelled. No longer do the main threats to our security come from the massed armies of hostile neighboursbut from terrorism, epidemic disease, organised crime, conflict over natural resources and environmental degradation (1).

Mason (2005) advances the above view through ethical arguments because he says that ignoring the impact of climate change on human security creates an accountability problem. Particularly, he stresses this point by highlighting the transnational and global hazards of climate change (Mason 2005).

Unlike other researchers, Mathews (1989) paints a more positive outlook on the environmental-security issue by saying the global environment could support increased human populations if societies adapt to the new realities of climate change.

Relative to the above conceptions of human security issues, Mathew & Fraser (2002) believe broadening security definitions to , changes the role of the state in human security matters. For example, within the new security framework, the roles of transnational and sub-national increase.

Technological innovation, increased information flows, and globalisation have helped such non-state actors to increase their influence in security matters (Mathew & Fraser 2002). Overall, human security interests do not align with national economic interests.

Khagram et al. (2003) agree with the view of Mason (2005) when they say that the limited role of the state in this new conception of security is justifiable because human societies are the main victims of climate change. Indeed, states are not the main victims of climate change because the latter has immediate and direct effects on peoples livelihoods (Moran 2011).

For example, although water scarcity may not necessarily lead to war, it could easily cause death from drought, dehydration, low food production, and similar calamities. Similar to the above view, Kaplan (1994) sums up the danger that human societies face from climate change by saying, environmental scarcity inflames existing hatred (p. 56) among communities.

Traditional Thinking of Human Security
Unlike the above researchers, proponents of the traditional view of security do not believe people should link climate change with human security. For example, Paris (2001) doubts the practicality of using a broad human security view for academic and policy-making purposes.

He says the concept lacks a precise definition because, like sustainable development, everyone supports it, but few people have a clear definition of its meaning (Paris 2001).

Secondly, Paris (2001) contends that human security holds together different institutions and organisations (such as non-governmental organisations and middle power states) which want to shift the balance from conventional national security issues to newer approaches of security to support their international development goals. Therefore, he believes the these organisations have biased views (Paris 2001).

Detraz & Betsill (2009) also agree that there is no link between climate change and human security issues. They say both concepts fall within two frameworks of environmental conflict and environmental security and believe the new debate that links climate change and human security issues have only engaged environmental security issues (Detraz & Betsill 2009). Therefore, a discursive shift has not occurred.

They also say the shift would be counterproductive because it would slow peoples resolve to find the real solutions to climate change (Detraz & Betsill 2009). Deudney (1990) supports this view by saying there is no relationship between climate change and political conflicts.

He says it is self-defeating and dangerous to link the two concepts because human security and environmental concerns do not emerge from the same concerns. Based on the same view, he says environmentalists often exaggerate the prospects of war from climate change concerns. Comprehensively, Deudney (1990) believes climate change does not affect national security, but the institutions and mindsets that created it.

Cudworth & Hobden (2011) also support the above view and say that merging environmental and security issues create two frameworks for understanding human security issues. These two approaches show that human societies cause climate change and climate change leads to insecurity (Cudworth & Hobden 2011).

He cautions that this approach should not ignore complex human relations (complexity theory) that regulate this relationship. In an unrelated context, OBrien (2006) believes that most people are missing the point about the relationship between human securities and environmental change.

He says the debate should shift from determining if environmental disasters are products of climate change, or not, to debates that explore if human societies could manage such disasters (OBrien 2006). Nonetheless, many human societies are unable to cope with these adverse environmental effects.

Therefore, they compromise human security. Based on these assertions, OBrien (2006) from human security. He says human security depends on peoples preparedness to handle climate change. Therefore, if societies could manage the effects of climate change, there would be no concerns about human security issues.

Redclift (2001) agrees with the above view. However, he says researchers have failed to include other discourses of environmental sustainability when they associate the concept with human security. Mainly, he says researchers need to include changing human security and natural resource issues when explaining the relationship between both concepts (Redclift 2001).

He believes that by doing so, researchers would easily broaden security and sustainability concepts (Redclift 2001). This approach would also give them a broader insight into human security issues, within an environmental framework.


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