Coronavirus Shows We Are Not at All Prepared for the Security threat of climate change

time frames.

A warming world will only result in more disaster-related events for power-hungry leaders to take advantage of in the years ahead. From the nationalization of resources to the deployment of militaries in response to climate shocks, it can be all-too-easy for public safety needs to bleed into personal political opportunities. The second-order effects of climate change, from supply chain instability to the migration of peoples, will also provide authoritarian leaders more fodder for their ethno-nationalist ideologies, which inflame divisions in society and could help broaden their personal appeal. Without clear and sturdy limits on executive power, the disruptive impacts of climate change will be used to further chip away at democratic freedoms across the world.

Overlapping Shocks Are the New Normal
Finally, this situation is teaching the globalized world new lessons on the devastating consequences of compounding shocks. Managing a deadly global pandemic is bad enough, even before you layer on the massive unemployment, trade disruptions and economic shutdown that its mitigation sets in motion.

The months ahead will bring about additional crises – some related to the pandemic, like a massive uptick in public debt used to bail out national economies. But other near-term shocks may themselves be climate change-induced, from new forecasts for large-scale floods this spring in the central US, to a prospective repeat of 2019’s severe summer heat waves across Europe.

These disasters have the potential to strike just at the time when people are being advised to shelter inside, many in at-risk areas and without adequate indoor cooling. Overlapping, historic shocks like this are becoming the new normal in our climate-changed era. As public disaster response budgets spiral and loss of life mounts each year, governments will continue to struggle to contain their compounding damage.

Scientists and security professionals alike have long warned about the devastating potential of climate change, alluding to how it might rattle our global governance systems to breaking point. But few could have expected that the fissures in our institutions would be revealed so soon, let alone on such a disturbingly large scale.

We can treat the current global crisis as a sort of “stress test” on these institutions, exposing their vulnerabilities but also providing the urgent impetus to build new resilience. In that light, we could successfully rebound from this moment with more solid global security and cooperation than we knew going into it. Decision-makers should take a hard look at their current responses, problem-solving methods, and institutional design with future climate forecasts like our Threat Assessment in mind.

We know that even steeper and more frequent global shocks are in store, particularly without serious climate change mitigation efforts. What we don’t yet know is whether we’ll repeat current patterns of mismanagement and abuse, or if we’ll chart a more proactive and resilient course through the risks that lie ahead.

Kate Guy is Ph.D. Candidate and Lecturer in International Relations, University of Oxford. This article is published courtesy of The Conversation.