The security risks of climate action

Biodiversity and ecosystems

Cities, settlements and infrastructure

Health and well-being

Water availability and food production

Low

Medium

High or very high

Confidence in attribution to climate change

Categories

Key

Already, climate change has reduced food and energy security. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate change has – combined with non-climatic drivers – caused roughly half of the world’s population to currently experience severe water scarcity for at least part of the year. 

Flood/storm induced damages in coastal areas

Damages to key economic sectors

Damages to infrastrcuture

Individual livelihoods have been affected through, for example, destruction of homes and infrastructure, and loss of property and income, human health and food security, with adverse effects on gender and social equity. 

It has also caused widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people. Economic damages have been detected in climate-exposed sectors, such as agriculture, forestry, fishery, energy, and tourism.

With further warming, climate change risks will become increasingly complex and more difficult to manage. Multiple climatic and non-climatic risk drivers will interact, resulting in compounding overall risk and risks cascading across sectors and regions.

Climate-driven food insecurity and supply instability, for example, are projected to increase with increasing global warming, interacting with non-climatic risk drivers such as competition for land between urban expansion and food production, pandemics and conflict.

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Biodiversity and ecosystems

Cities, settlements and infrastructure

Health and well-being

Socio-economic

Water availability and food production

Continued greenhouse gas emissions will lead to increasing global warming, with the best estimate of reaching 1.5°C in the near term.

Continued global warming is projected to further intensify the global water cycle, including its variability, global monsoon precipitation, and very wet and very dry weather and climate events and seasons. Compound heatwaves and droughts are projected to become more frequent, including concurrent events across multiple locations. 

Although academics have expressed doubts about the links between climate change, conflict and security, the consensus among Western public policy makers is striking. 

Western militaries and defence planners, national security think tanks and intelligence agencies, the UN, IMF and World Bank, state development agencies, humanitarian and development NGOs, environmental campaigners, mainstream liberal media and even authoritarian Southern governments: all have in one way or another, and for one reason or another, argued that climate change has sweeping implications for conflict and security.

The likelihood of water-related extreme weather events occuring is also increasing. Flood-related disasters, for example, rose by 134% between 2000 and 2020 compared with the two previous decades.