Phil Gibson's picture
Climate Change
Posted on Nov 30, 2015

Just days before COP21 convened in Paris, 135 key people were in Ottawa to discuss climate change, security and defence last week, but the security sector was noticeably absent.

A few public servants were there, testing their wings now that the election has liberated them from the cone of silence. The defence establishment was well represented.

Many luminaries of the climate change movement were at the Chateau Laurier last week to hear speakers on a range of topics of particular interest to northern nations. Dr. Klaus Töpfer, the former executive director of the UN environmental program described climate change as a ‘force multiplier’ that can aggravate other risks to humanity like pandemics, mass migrations and terrorism.  Germany is well on its way to achieving a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 because it has recognized that there is “no alternative” but to create a sustainable economy, he said.

Describing climate change as “the ultimate force multiplier”, the defence attaché to the Norwegian embassy in Washington asked the assembly to consider how much more extensive the current migration to Western Europe would be if North African food and water supplies were obliterated by global warming. Several speakers remarked that the global food supply is already under threat.

Somewhat surprisingly, several nations look to their military to monitor climate change and mitigate its effects. This trend is most notable in relation to major weather emergencies. Defence personnel were prominent among the speakers who were invited by organizers from the Conference Board of Canada. More than 10% of registered participants were identified with a defence organization.

Others represented politics, academia, think tanks and lobbying firms. The Liberals’ new Whip, retired Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie was there. No one identified with the New Democratic Party registered. There were several Senators and their staff. 

Vancouver Quadra MP Joyce Murray, who was credited with inspiring the event, could offer no reason for the lack of interest from potential participating agencies like the RCMP and CSIS. One likely explanation may be that while climate change is becoming well recognized as a global risk, opposition to their involvement on the environmental file from activists has made security agencies reluctant to show up.

I wonder what it will take to entice security organizations to get involved in the discussion.