Security concern on climate change

Portia Mlilo

Botswana Defence Force in collaboration with US Africa Command (US-AFRICOM) and US Institute for Peace held a Security Implications of Climate Change symposium this week in Gaborone.

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The objective of the forum was to share perspectives on climate change impacts on stability across the continent particularly in regions already facing significant political, social and economic stresses with emphasis on identifying practical actionable solutions.

Among other things discussed were innovative approaches and technology solutions to foster the integration of climate information into military planning and decision making.

Speaking at the symposium, BDF Commander, Lieutenant General Placid Segokgo said climate change has security implications which might lead to physical confrontations and even war. He said it is vital that militaries collaborate and treat climate change as a national, regional and global security priority.

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“We are caught up in an inescapable intricate web of uncertainty as the heat waves are more frequent and more severe, the summers are long, harsh and dry, the rainfall erratic, the droughts are long and severe, storms and floods are more devastating. The impact of climate change continued to be felt in various economic sectors such as agriculture, water and energy infrastructure, rendering them less productive. Such then leads to rising food insecurity and water stress which could in turn lead to mass migration with potential to aggravate existing tensions between countries,” said Segokgo

The US-Africa Command representative, Major General Kenneth Ekman said the symposium which attracted representatives from 36 countries was an indication that climate implications affect all and that no country is immune. He said climate change exacerbated current challenges such as conflicts and security concerns, whose frequency and severity overwhelmed existing national capacities.

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“It is upon all the concerned stakeholders to move beyond just disaster response and instead build shared skills and capacity for resilience and adaptation. It is key to all participants of the symposium to develop new solutions and foster deeper cooperation to address mounting climate-linked security challenges. We should ask ourselves, what impact climate change has on our individual countries, on future military operations, what the appropriate role is for the military to support governments and what are the opportunities where we could cooperate to build shared skills with neighbouring militaries,” said Ekman

The Director of climate, environment and conflict at the US Institute of Peace, Dr Tegan Blaine said climate change was a developmental issue that also impacted on peace, risked food security and frustrated economic development of many African countries. She said the effects of climate change often forced people to look to their governments for help, which is not guaranteed, looking at many competing national priorities.

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