Rethinking Climate Change, Conflict and Security
International Conference, University of Sussex, UK
18-19 October 2012
What are the conflict and security implications of global climate change? This question has received widespread attention from policy makers in recent years, with most concluding that climate change will in all likelihood become a significant 'threat multiplier' to existing patterns of insecurity and discord. Academic debate has tended to be more divided, with some concluding – on the basis either of case studies or quantitative analyses of historical and present-day climate-conflict relations – that anthropogenic warming is likely to exacerbate conflict dynamics, but others finding only circumstantial evidence of linkages between the two, and still others refuting the climate conflict thesis altogether.
Yet despite these differences in emphasis, a common set of assumptions have come to dominate contemporary academic, media and policy discourse on climate change and security. Most of this discourse is deeply Malthusian in emphasis, whether in the nightmarish pessimism of journalistic accounts and policy scenarios, or in the substantive focus on environmental determinants, resource scarcity, and the intersection with poverty and state fragility in the global South (especially Sub-Saharan Africa) that is characteristic of the vast bulk of academic work on the subject. Most of it focuses exclusively on the environmental and in turn socio-political impacts of climate change, but not on the nascent and potential conflict impacts of climate change mitigation or adaptation measures. Most of it is methodologically empiricist or positivist, involving analyses of the relations between distinct environmental and social variables, but largely failing to draw insights from other methodological traditions, or from theoretically informed accounts of the relations between environmental and social change on the one hand, and political conflict on the other. Moreover, much – but by no means all – of this discourse is highly climate-centric, 'reducing the future to climate' (Hulme), and failing to contextualise climate impacts in relation to other broader processes of global and social change, even when it is recognised that these climate impacts will only ever occur in intersection with other threats and factors.
The guiding premise of this two-day international conference at the University of Sussex is that current academic and policy discourse on climate change, conflict and security is for the most part framed too narrowly around the above parameters, and would benefit from both broadening and critique. The conference will include papers setting out some of the most recent findings on the likely conflict impacts of anthropogenic climate change. But its main focus will be on rethinking contemporary climate security discourse, whether by problematising contemporary orthodoxies, or by advancing alternative interpretations of the relations between climate change, conflict and security.
We would welcome papers on any area relating to the theme of 'rethinking climate change, conflict and security', including:
- Critical assessments of contemporary climate conflict discourse.
- The current and potential future impacts of climate-induced environmental transformations in contributing to conflict and insecurity.
- The impacts of climate-induced environmental transformations in contributing, alternatively, to peace-building and cooperation.
- The current and potential future impacts of climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies, and climate change-security paradigms, in contributing to conflict and insecurity.
- The political uses and abuses of discourse on climate change within contexts of political conflict.
- The securitisation and militarisation of climate change discourse and policy.
- The impacts of political and violent conflict upon vulnerability and adaptation to climate change.
- Contextualised case studies and comparative analyses of climate change-conflict-security linkages within specific local, national or regional settings (especially Sub-Saharan Africa), and of the role of specific intervening environmental (e.g. water, desertification) or social (e.g. migration, displacement, governance) variables between climate change and conflict.
- Disciplinary and inter-disciplinary perspectives informed by Anthropology, Cultural Studies, Development Studies, Economics, Environmental Studies, Geography, International Relations, Political Ecology, Security Studies, and Sociology.
- Theoretical reflections on, and theoretically informed accounts of, climate change-conflict-security linkages.
- Alternative methodologies, and discussion of methodological issues at stake, in analysing climate change and conflict.
- Discussions of policy priorities and dilemmas.
The conference will be held at the University of Sussex, and will be structured around a maximum of 30 papers (probably without parallel panels). Draft papers will be submitted and distributed prior to the conference. It is intended that selected papers will be published in a special issue of a leading international politics/security journal. Some financial support will be available for speakers. The conference is supported by the EC Framework 7 project 'Climate Change, Hydro-Conflicts and Human Security' (CLICO) and the Sussex Centre for International Security (SCIS).
Speakers will include:
Halvard Buhaug, Peace Research Institute Oslo
Simon Dalby, Carleton University
Betsy Hartmann, Hampshire College
Mike Hulme, University of East Anglia
Convenors: Jan Selby and Clemens Hoffmann
Department of International Relations, University of Sussex