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UN: Climate change increases risk of violent conflict

September 23, 2021

A reliance on shrinking resources, such as water, could increase tensions on the ground, UN chief Antonio Guterres has warned. But problems could be mitigated through "climate adaptation."

 UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a Security Council meeting.
Image: John Minchillo/AP/picture alliance

Climate change could heighten tensions on the ground in countries relying on shrinking natural resources, hiking up the risks of violent conflict, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned on Thursday. 
"It is clear that climate change and environmental mismanagement are risk multipliers where coping capacities are limited," Guterres said in remarks to a high-level Security Council meeting on climate and security. 

The climate meeting convened on the sidelines of the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations in New York.

How do climate change and conflict overlap?

The likelihood of escalation is especially high in countries with poor coping mechanisms for the climate crisis, while being dependent on dwindling resources, such as water and arable land.

"The effects of climate change are particularly profound when they overlap with fragility and past or current conflicts," Guterres told the council. "In Somalia, more frequent and intense droughts and floods are undermining food security, increasing competition over scarce resources and exacerbating existing community tensions from which Shabab benefits."

He said 90% of refugees come from "countries that are among the most vulnerable and least able to adapt to the effects of climate change."

He urged Council members to consider peace-building efforts and climate adaptation to help mitigate the risks. 

"Climate adaptation and peace-building can and should reinforce each other," Guterres said.

UN warns: Time is running out on climate change

Guterres told the session that a recent report by UN scientists that showed dangerously intensifying levels of climate change was "a code red for humanity."

He said that at least 30 million people were displaced by climate-related disasters last year and that "no region is immune."

"Our window of opportunity to prevent the worst climate impacts is rapidly closing," he warned.

While various members of the powerful UN body have tried to tackle the issues of climate change and conflict in the past, there has so far not been enough support in the council.

go/rt (dpa, AFP)