UK National Security and Environmental Change
Published date: 09 Apr 2009
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The challenges of environmental change are complex and far-reaching. This paper is divided into five sections: the what, where, when, who and how of the security threats of environmental change. Each section is accompanied by a descriptive scenario, meant to be illustrations rather than forecasts.
The world is undergoing simultaneous upheavals in three major areas: geopolitical, geoeconomic and environmental. The geopolitical and geo-economic shifts raise obvious national security concerns. The implications of the third, environmental change, are more difficult to quantify but are just as critical.
From a security perspective, our environment is the infrastructure upon which we graft all other infrastructure. In the UK the transport systems, cities, defensive capabilities, agriculture, power generation, water supply and more are all designed for the specific parameters of the physical environment – or, more often, the physical environment of the Victorian or post-WWII periods in which they were originally built. This is why unplanned environmental change almost always has a negative effect. In the case of a change in precipitation patterns, for example, the drainage systems, reservoirs and hydro installations can all fail not because they were poorly engineered, but because they were engineered for different conditions. We are literally not designed for environmental change.
The challenges of environmental change are complex and far-reaching. This paper is divided into five sections: the what, where, when, who and how of the security threats of environmental change.
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