Climate change poses major security threat to Pakistan, says military

With far-reaching consequences like food scarcity, climate change is a major security challenge and countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh can take lessons from the Arab Spring that was triggered by high food prices.

Could Pakistan become destabilised because of climate change? Could the continuous cycles of floods and droughts result in food scarcity, leading to riots and possibly a revolution – like the Arab Spring triggered by high food prices caused by drought? Certainly in Tunisia and Syria, the consequences of climate change were stressors that ignited a volatile mix of underlying causes that erupted into revolution and experts say there are lessons for Pakistan to learn.

“Climate change is indeed a threat multiplier, exacerbating existing pressures as well as presenting new challenges to security in fragile societies,” explains Pakistan’s retired Lt Gen Tariq Waseem Ghazi from Pakistan, who now works for the Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change (GMACC).

The GMACC was set up in 2009 as a global network of serving and retired military officers to highlight the potential security implications of a changing climate and to advocate action, including by the military, to minimise the risks.

“Today, we can’t discuss climate change without the military discussing it. Climate change is a growing worldwide threat to general peace and security,” says Ghazi, who was defence secretary to the government of Pakistan from 2005-2007.

Pakistan, which ranks tenth in 2014’s global index of fragile states, could learn from what happened during the Arab Spring, he says. That spring, he adds, has now turned into an “Arab Winter” with the destabilisation of states like Libya and Syria. “70% of nations in the world today, including Pakistan, state that climate change is now a national security issue. Pakistan’s government even came up with a comprehensive National Climate Change Policy (NCCP) but now Pakistan is bucking the trend,” Ghazi says.

The NCCP laid down all the benchmarks when it was launched in 2013 but there is still no national action plan to implement the policy. Says retired ambassador and climate change expert Shafqat Kakakhel: “The NCCP must be taken up by various government departments. Climate change must not be treated as a sectoral issue. It is a multi-dimensional topic and an overarching institutional framework is needed for both policymaking and implementation.”

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