A report released Thursday states that the vicious cycle linking natural resource depletion and violence may have gone past the point of no return in some parts of planet, and will likely be exacerbated by climate change.
The second edition of the Ecological Threat Report (ETR), released by the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP), assesses threats “relating to food risk, water risk, rapid population growth, temperature anomalies and natural disasters.” The authors measured these threats against a nation’s “socio-economic resilience” to determine how likely a country will be able to cope against environment-related conflict.
The ETR found that there is a cyclic relationship between ecological degradation and conflict. The lack of available resources, primarily access to food and clean water, leads to violent conflict within a nation, which further prevents that society from accessing or maintaining these resources. The IEP believes that these cycles will continue to trend negatively without a sustained effort to reverse the current path.
The report found that current trends are reversing the long-held trend of decreasing food scarcity the world over. Food scarcity has been steadily increasing since 2015. IEP projects, based on current trends and policies, that the “number of undernourished people [will] rise by 343 million by 2050, to 1.1 billion people,” a 45-percent increase over current numbers.
Traditional farming and bread belts in Africa and the Middle East will be hit particularly hard should current trends continue. These areas, particularly the Sahel-Horn, currently have the highest levels of food insecurity and lowest societal resilience to ecological changes.
The 30 countries that currently face the highest level of ecological threat are home to 1.26 billion people. The ERT details that, of the 15 countries currently facing the worst ecological threats, 11 are currently in conflict, and the remaining four are struggling to maintain lasting peace. All of these nations “combine low socio-economic resilience with medium to high catastrophic ecological threats.” Nearly two-thirds of today’s climate migrants come from these 30 countries.
The ETR urges the international community to prioritize the installation of international agencies that combine health, food, water, refugee relief, finance, agriculture, and development. The report also highlights that “[m]any of the solutions to the ecological problems can generate income,” echoing similar statements from proponents of renewable energy and other climate change mitigation efforts.
World leaders and other international bodies are preparing to meet in Glasgow for the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26). One of the stated goals of the meeting is to “[a]dapt to protect communities and natural habitats” by encouraging countries to “protect and restore ecosystems … [by building] resilient infrastructures and agriculture to avoid loss of homes, livelihoods and even lives.”