At International Alert, the starting point for thinking about how climate change affects stability is recognizing that climate change will interact with and amplify existing social, economic, and political stressors in fragile communities, said Alert's Climate Change and Conflict adviser Janani Vivekananda in this interview with the the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program (ECSP).
“Rather than climate change being this single, direct causal factor which will spark conflict at the national level,” Vivekananda said, these stressors “will shift the tipping point at which conflict might ignite.” In places that are already weakened by instability and conflict, climate change will simply be an additional challenge.
To address this additional challenge, Vivekananda said two things must be understood about the effects of climate change on fragile states:
- Environmental, social, economic, and political stressors will be most evident at the household and community level; and
- Those stressors are interrelated.
“You can’t address one of these things in isolation from the others. You have to understand how they all interact together to be able to respond appropriately,” she said. “We can’t think about food security, for example, without thinking about land degradation.” In addition, responses need to be relevant to their context, and that context “can only be understood through very sub-national, context-specific evidence.” Vivekanada explained that this kind of evidence can only come from a “bottom-up” approach, which should be coordinated as part of a broader effort.
For more on the connections between climate change and stability, see The New Security Beat’s summary of Connections Between Climate and Stability: Lessons From Asia and Africa with Alert's Janani Vivekanada, Jeffrey Stark of the Foundation for Environmental Security and Sustainability, and Cynthia Brady of USAID speaking at the Woodrow Wilson Center.