Security-led approach to climate change and complex emergencies

Dystopian preparations by the state are reflected in the corporate arena. Where we see a future climate crisis, many companies see only opportunity: oil firms looking forward to melting ice caps delivering new accessible fossil fuels; security firms touting the latest technologies to secure borders from ‘climate refugees’; or investment fund managers speculating on weather-related food prices – to name but a few. In 2012, Raytheon, one of the world’s largest defence contractors, announced “expanded business opportunities” arising from “security concerns and their possible consequences,” due to the “effects of climate change” in the form of “storms, droughts, and floods”. The rest of the defence sector has been quick to follow.

Ultimately, a security-led approach to climate change and complex emergencies not only fails to address the fundamental causes of these crises – it will often exacerbate them. Worldwide the increased focus on food security is already driving increased land grabbing. The diversion of resources into military spending and strategies is preventing much needed investment in crisis-prevention and tackling the root causes of human insecurity. Given that climate change will impact disproportionately on the poorest, a militarisation of our response merely compounds a fundamental injustice – that those least responsible for climate change will be most affected.

In this sense, Hurricane Katrina was a watershed moment and a warning to us all as it laid bare the way in which democratic states would become more preoccupied with the threat posed by their own citizens – instead of taking the bold steps needed to protect current and future populations. Transformed by 9/11, it is this vision of ‘Homeland Security’ that is shaping future responses to emergency – and transforming climate change from a social justice issue to a national security one. We the people have to combine our actions to end worsening climate change with a transformation of the institutions that seek to respond to its impacts.

Ten years on: Katrina, militarisation and climate change