The IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report on climate impacts, vulnerability, and adaptation shows little evidence of a direct link between climate change and violent conflicts. However, climate change’s disproportionate impact and tendency to destabilise societies can spark conflicts.
African countries most vulnerable to climate change also suffer from poverty and weak governance, making their people more vulnerable to joining extremist groups and participating in violent crimes (People, countries impacted, 2021).
Although the war in Ukraine has kept the latest IPCC report from its usual spot on the front pages, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a neighbour and sovereign nation, offers critical lessons for the global energy markets and climate change policies.
Europe and the US’s dependence on Russia’s natural gas and oil affect the effectiveness of economic sanctions against Russia. Experts have suggested that these countries need to wean themselves from Russia’s fossil fuel supplies. This is a developing issue that will have some updates in the days to come.
According to the New York Times article “War Abroad and Politics at Home Push U.S. Climate Action Aside,”
“Analysts have said European countries can quickly reduce gas dependence with energy efficiency measures and ramping up renewable energy investments, which are already in line with Europe’s ambition to stop pumping additional greenhouse gases into the atmosphere by midcentury. The conflict in Ukraine could fast-track some of that.”
Should countries strive to become more energy-independent so they will not rely on authoritarian governments for energy?
Steven Cohen mentions in his article that the United States’ issue of energy security had been debated for half a century (Cohen, 2022). “The fragility of the energy supply in the 1970s resulted in a call for American energy independence, and that call is now being renewed by the drill-baby-drill crowd”, he says.
However, because of the nature of the global economy where countries can sell their oil to where they could get higher prices for it, energy independence is not realistic but a “deceptive political symbolism” (Cohen, 2022).
“The only true way to secure real energy independence is to break our dependence on fossil fuels. Renewable energy is the ultimate form of energy independence since no sovereign state owns the sun. Moreover, as innovation drives down the cost of technology to convert solar and wind power to electricity, renewable energy will become less and less expensive,” he adds.
Weighing on the ongoing siege of Ukraine by Russia and the release of the IPCC’s Working Group 2 report that says that nearly half of humanity is living in the danger zone because of climate change threats, Steve Cicala from the National Bureau of Economic Research says that both events will generate a new framework for understanding the global energy markets (Clifford, 2022).
Clifford’s CNBC article mentions the following:
- Cicala says that a nation’s energy policy is a cornerstone of its national security policy. Europe’s outsourcing its gas from Russia is “staggeringly irresponsible” and from now on “should be moving at the maximum possible speed to get themselves off of Russian gas,” Cicala said.
- According to David Victor, a professor of public policy at U.C. San Diego, the goal is energy security and not independence, and “Security comes from diversity and diversity alone,” he said. And Europe’s diversifying its sources of gas from other countries would mean it would not be dependent on one or few suppliers like Russia.
- Europe can scale up its renewable energy and reach its climate goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and cutting emissions by more than half by 2030. But doing this will take a strong political will and require a governmental intervention which some European governments like the U.K. does not like to do but would rather deregulate and allow the private sector to operate on a free basis, but Sir David King, a former UK climate change official who now chairs the Climate Crises Advisory Group says that governments can’t successfully transition to renewable without a regulatory behavior.
- Sovacool said that politicians don’t prioritize energy policy because of their constituents’ more pressing problems, such as house mortgages, university fees, or paying for their cars. People spend more money on these than their energy bills. At the same time, public polls think that Covid-19 response, immigration, health, and military spending are higher on the priority list than climate policy and energy issues. Also, by investing in low-carbon alternatives, energy prices may go up, which can payout or benefit society in the long run but no politician would dare risk during their term.
The prevailing war has exposed the reality that countries are dependent on fossil fuels, and there is a huge amount of work to be done to pursue climate change adaptation and mitigation goals.
People, Countries Impacted by Climate Change Also Vulnerable to Terrorist Recruitment, Violence, Speakers Tell Security Council in Open Debate. (2021, December 9). United Nations. Retrieved from https://www.un.org/press/en/2021/sc14728.doc.htm
Sengupta, S. & Friedman, L. (2022, March 2). War Abroad and Politics at Home Push U.S. Climate Action Aside. New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/02/climate/state-of-the-union-biden-ukraine-climate.html
Cohen, Steve. (2022, March 7). The Impact of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine on Climate Change Policy. State of the Planet. Retrieved from https://news.climate.columbia.edu/2022/03/07/the-impact-of-russias-invasion-of-ukraine-on-climate-change-policy/
Clifford, Catherine. (2022, March 2). Russia’s war with Ukraine offers critical lessons for global energy markets. CNBC. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2022/03/02/russia-ukraine-war-lessons-for-global-energy-markets.html