Climate change as an emerging non-traditional security challenge: A way forward

Climate change is a proven fact and it is an existential threat that affects almost every corner of our planet from the poles to the tropical zones and from the mountains to the oceans. The world is currently facing the worse effects of climate change and people and nature worldwide are already feeling its harsh effects as extreme changes in weather patterns and events increasing in frequency, rising sea levels, burning of forests, shrinkage of water supplies, extinction of species and coral reefs dying out, etc. Climate change can have disastrous consequences in endangering the survival of the earth’s flora and fauna, including human beings and thus there, is a dire need to address it optically as this non-traditional security challenge may troll the developmental process globally.

Post- cold war the non-traditional security challenges have become an important issue and the world today is facing issues related to climate change and is adversely affected by them. Climate change is a collective responsibility being the inhabitants of the planet earth so, scientists and different meteorological organizations had started up a political consensus on the need for actions and cooperation to handle climate change as a new threat to the international community.

Causes of Climate Change:

Non-traditional security challenge like climate change is caused by human-induced disturbances to the fragile balance of nature with dire consequences for both states and societies and they are often very difficult to reverse or repair. With the reports on climate change, it has become evident that the carbon emissions and intensity of the change are increasing day by day.

Greenhouse gases are the key drivers of climate change. Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide occur naturally and so is their concentration. However, certain human activities since the industrial revolution have resulted in a fundamental increase in the concentration of these greenhouse gases. These greenhouse gases act as a glass barrier and trap the sun’s heat within the atmosphere, and prevent it from going back to space resulting in global warming. Developed countries like the US have accounted for nearly 50% of the total greenhouse gases emission over the past decade but today, developing nations like India and China have begun to catch up with the greenhouse gas emissions as well.

Moreover, the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas is also one of the biggest drivers of climate change. It has led to an increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases within the atmosphere. Other activities like clearing land for agriculture, are causing the average temperature of our planet to increase. Such human-induced enhancement of the greenhouse effect because of the current emissions of greenhouse gases has the potential to warm up the earth to levels that have not been experienced before. This can lead us to climate change which can have far-reaching unpredictable environmental, social, and economic consequences all across the globe.

The emergence of climate change and its global impacts:

Climate change is emerging as the greatest non-traditional threat to global security and it can have physical impacts that could reach the very heart of the security agenda: such as disease and famine, flooding which can result in migration, droughts, and crop failure. This further leads to an intensified competition for resources in regions all across the globe where they are already been stretched to the limits. The vulnerable people face the most disproportionate challenges including extreme events, health effects, food security, water security, and cultural identity as they have very few resources to cope with climate change and that is why poor and marginalized groups are calling for immediate climate action. The representatives of small island states like Papua Ni Guinea say that their population faces dangers of climate change that are no less serious than those which are being faced by nations and peoples threatened by guns and bombs. The French view climate change as a number one threat to the whole of humanity. UN Security General Ban Ki-Moon said that due to climate change scarce resources such as energy, water, and arable land could lead to outright conflicts all across the globe. Climate change is seen as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world as well.

Climate change is happening and we are observing its impacts that are affecting the earth. Climate change is having impacts on our health, environment, and economy, and they are been expressed in terms of their damages, harms, and economic and non-economic losses. Climate change is leading us towards warmer temperatures increasing the frequency, duration, and intensity of heat waves that pose serious health risks to people of all ages. Climate change is having negative impacts on air and water quality, and it is altering the frequency or intensity of extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, and cyclones.

 Moreover, the rising sea levels due to climate change have also threatened the coastal communities and ecosystems and we expect that the magnitude of extreme sea level events will escalate more in the coming decades.

Climate change has also caused substantial and irreversible damage to terrestrial, freshwater, marshy, and open ocean marine ecosystems. The changing ecosystems have their impacts on the geographic planes of many plants and animal species affecting their lifecycle events such as migration and reproduction. The existence of climate refugees due to massive migration is a reality that is still to be recognized by the United Nations and it is estimated that their number could reach one billion by 2050. This rise in weather and climate extremes has led to some inevitable impacts as natural and human systems are been pushed beyond their ability to adapt. It is very difficult to predict the exact impacts of climate change but it is clear that the climate to which we are accustomed is no longer a reliable guide for what to expect shortly.

Way forward for tackling climate change:

Climate change is an issue that requires regional and multi-lateral cooperation rather than national solutions that are inadequate. Tackling climate change is a herculean task and it requires the international consensus and efforts of communities, companies, and individuals alike to stave off the worst consequences of climate change.

The positive venture of climate resilience by IPCC:

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assesses the impacts of humans on climate and highlights the need for climate solutions that conform to the principles of climate justice. A significant amount of progress has been made on science and the policies needed to support a transition to being climate resilient. The IPCC’s latest reports perceive the value of diverse forms of knowledge such as scientific, indigenous, and local knowledge in building climate resilience.

Climate resilient is being facilitated by international cooperation and by governments at all levels working with civil society, scientific and educational institutions, media, businesses, and investors and by developing partnerships with the marginalized groups of the society such as youth, women, local communities, indigenous people and ethnic minorities. The focus is on effective climate change-related planning and management in the least developed countries with a focus on women, youth, and local and marginalized communities.

Perception of climate change as a global emergency:

According to World Economic Forum Global Risk Report 2021, the failure to mitigate and adapt to climate change is the most impactful risk faced by worldwide communities. Moreover, according to WHO, there is a threat that 250,000 additional deaths would be recorded between the years 2030-2050 due to climate change. The effects are already visible and will be catastrophic unless we act now.

Keeping the harsh consequences of climate change in check the international community has recognized global warming as a global emergency now and for this matter, the countries in the Paris Climate Agreement have taken a pledge to reduce or limit global warming, as it is impossible to reverse it now. Global agreements and treaties like the Conference of Parties and the Montreal Protocol work on a common framework for acting against climate change as well.

Need for a Renewables Revolution:

To tackle climate change there is a need for advanced research, political will, investment, archaic infrastructure, and impractical policies in all the concerned institutions. The governments are encouraged to promote more ambitious climate policies, supporting the shift to renewable energy sources, and working with cities, businesses, and communities to create a climate-resilient, net-zero future so that the global impact of climate change can be reduced to an extent.

Moreover, the governments should also look out for improved and early forecasting, as it would help in better preparation for climate change with high-quality meteorological system data. [1]The actions required to mitigate the effects of climate change in the future include greater investment in renewable energies, promoting energy efficiency, transition to a low-carbon economy, energy efficiency, electrification of industrial processes, and the implementation of an efficient transport system.


The fight against climate change is a strategic priority as it is the main challenge for the future of life on the planet. Many initiatives and conferences have been adapted to address the non-traditional security issue of climate change but the problem seems to be getting out of hand.  It is assumed that the dangerous effects of climate change will worsen each year if we fail to curb climate change leading to the destabilization of our planet earth.

Conserving our climate is the necessary condition for sustainability and to achieve a goal all nations should work together, aiding each other in taking collective actions against the worst effects of climate change rather than blaming one another for the current situation. The application of restoration actions and the promotion of compensation projects to achieve a net positive result against climate change should be our top priority. This means that a more collaborative approach towards climate change adaptation is crucial as we can still escape the impacts of climate change, and build a safer future for all.


Hashim Kamal
Hashim Kamal
The author is a research scholar at the Department of International Relations, National Defence University Islamabad