Climate change is the biggest threat to global security

We often talk about the impacts of climate change on extreme weather events around the globe, from heatwaves to floods. Plus, more recent research to show it impacts our health, with air pollution increasing and rising temperatures causing many premature deaths. Now climate change and global security are clearly linked.

On Tuesday 23rd February, Prime Minister Boris Johnson chaired a virtual meeting of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). He has warned world leaders that failure to address the issue of climate change will undermine global security. The Prime Minister said climate change was a "geopolitical issue every bit as much as it is an environmental one".

The UNSC session is the first leader-level discussion it has held on climate and is the first time it has been chaired by a British prime minister in nearly 30 years. Johnson said "It is a matter of when, not if, your country and your people will have to deal with the security impacts of climate change." Of the 20 countries ranked most vulnerable to rising temperatures, 12 are already in conflict.

It is a matter of when, not if, your country and your people will have to deal with the security impacts of climate change

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to the UN Security Council

Sir David Attenborough gave a passionate and eloquent speech to the council - you can watch that video in full here:

Attenborough said: “We are today perilously close to tipping points that, once passed, will send global temperatures spiralling catastrophically higher.”

2020 has been called the joint warmest year ever recorded and tipping points are getting closer. Tipping points are when we reach irreversible change - for example, bleaching of coral reefs and melting sea ice. "If we continue on our current path, we will face the collapse of everything that gives us our security: food production, access to freshwater, habitable ambient temperature and ocean food chains.” What Attenborough is saying is that the whole world is linked and we all rely on each other and need to help each other. There are huge challenges ahead.

Sir David Attenborough at a session of the UN Security Council Credit: PA

COP26 is being hosted by the UK in Glasgow in November, when the world will come together, including the newly rejoined USA. There are more ambitious and concrete pledges to commit to net-zero emissions to limit global temperature rise to no more than 2ºC, ideally less than 1.5ºC.

Sir David is very aware, from his decades of documenting the natural world and impacts of climate change, of the huge challenges ahead for all governments.

And if the natural world can no longer support the most basic of our needs, then much of the rest of civilization will quickly break down...please, make no mistake. Climate change is the biggest threat to security that modern humans have ever faced.

Sir David Attenborough - Broadcaster

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