International Seminar Climate Change and Its Security Implications

Program of "Climate Change and Its Security Implications"

International Seminar “Climate Change and Its Security Implications” 24 – 27 March 2013 The Imperial Queen’s Park Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand organized by National Defence Studies Institute..

Tues 26 March 8.30-8.40

Session III: Plenary Discussion on “Climate Change and its Security Implications: Ways to Enhance Cooperation


Lt Gen Wisith Jaengprajak

Lt Gen Wisith welcomed all participants. He noted the negative effect of climate change
on the billions of people in the region.  Disasters have increased in magnitude and frequency.  These have had an effect on the security of the nation.  A number of international and regional organizations have been set up to address this issue.  Nevertheless these efforts must be expanded and enhanced.  He looked forward to today’s contributions from Japan and Singapore and introduced today’s speakers.

Tues 26 March 8.40-9.25

Session III: Plenary Discussion on “Climate Change and its Security Implications: Ways to Enhance Cooperation”

Enhancing National and Regional Cooperation

Col Takamatsu Minoru, Senior Researcher, National Institute for Defense Studies, Japan

Japan is vulnerable to various natural disasters – earthquakes are caused by tectonic plate movement; Japan is in the regular path of typhoons; and rivers run very rapidly causing landslides.  For generations the Japanese people have had to cope with this situation.
Public awareness is very high and disaster drills are held regularly involving a wide range of organizations. 

The JSDF have regularly been part of the response to disasters and seen this as a major role.  This has earned them solid public support.  The earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 2011 caused enormous loss of life and damage to property and infrastructure, in particular nuclear power facilities.  The JSDF was equally large; it saved many people and provided essential services on a large scale.

Cooperation was organized with foreign regional and international agencies, including military organizations.  Emphasis was placed on close coordination to achieve maximum efficiency.

The management of the disaster response was reviewed at the highest level under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister.  Besides examining and reviewing past operations,
and verifying lessons learned, it also investigated more effective disaster management for future disasters.

The objectives are: 1) strength and flexibility of society against disasters; 2) preparation for all possibilities; 3) rapid and massive response of government and civilian sectors; 4) recovery to create a ‘society of new hope’; 5) opportunity created by disaster management for improvements in technology and production, including satellite monitoring of climate change; 6) promotion of Japan as an advanced country in the field of disaster management.

Predicted future major disasters include earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, pandemics and ‘3-interlocking type’ earthquakes.

Climate change in Japan is becoming apparent in temperature changes with hotter summers and colder winters, and increasing frequency of high rainfall precipitation.  Campaigns to adapt to climate change include ‘Coolbiz’ and ‘Warmbiz’ to moderate use of heating and air-conditioning through appropriate clothing and behavior, and use of energy-saving light bulbs.

Japan places high importance on International Disaster Relief.  This creates ‘soft power’ for Japan and relies on Japan’s expertise and experience.  Japan provides material, financial and manpower assistance, involving search and rescue, medical, experts and JSDF teams.  The last has the mission of medical treatment, epidemic prevention, water purification and transportation (airlift, sealift).  The organization to effect this was explained, together with operational procedures and available equipment.

Past JSDF International Disaster Relief operations were exemplified.  The challenges in these operations include the need to continually improve procedures and preparedness; security; man-made disasters (nuclear disasters; oil spills).  To meet these needs, Japan needs to improve its high-speed response capacity with new equipment, although this is expensive.

The National Institute for Defense Studies provides seminars and conferences and publications on disaster management.

Q         How are military operations coordinated with those of the civilian government?

A         There is no organization corresponding to FEMA in the US.  When large-scale disasters occur, the Prime Minister’s Office takes charge.  The nuclear disaster was a difficult case; there was no preparation and there was hesitation about taking action.  Experience in this field is limited world-wide.  However, the experience gained 2 years ago has yielded valuable lessons.

Q         How do satellite early warning systems work?

A         These include special sensors to monitor, e.g. sea levels to predict tsunamis.


Q         How are satellite images used?

A         The satellites monitor GPS sensors all over Japan to use ground movements to predict earthquakes.  [Dr Thavida explained how Japan broadcasts early warnings and trains the public in appropriate responses, working through a prepared organizational structure.]  Early warning messages are sent to each individual through mobile phones.

Q         How is public awareness of disaster management achieved?

A         The annual National Disaster Day drills are everywhere in Japan, including one major drill at a selected location.


Tues 26 March 9.45-10.30

Session III: Plenary Discussion on “Climate Change and its Security Implications: Ways to Enhance Cooperation

Enhancing International Community Cooperation

Yang Razili Kassim, Senior Fellow, Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Singapore

The presentation will broaden the perspective on climate change and international security.  Climate change is more frequently being framed as a security issue, with the counterargument that this implies militarization and competition.  However, the concept of security has broadened beyond military security.  Within the past 5 years the UN has acknowledged the link between climate change and security, as have other major states.  Climate change has been reframed as a threat to national and global security.  This gives the issue urgency, but also raises fears of the militarization of climate change hindering international cooperation on CC. 

Opinion leaders; perspectives began with a 2007 report (Campbell et al) on the securitization of CC.  This dealt with the expected scenario, a severe scenario and a catastrophic scenario and the security implications.  The expected scenario would impact warming, a rise in SLR and result in conflicts over resources, disease proliferation, water scarcity, flooding and hunger.  This would lead to migration, failed states, greater power t energy-exporting states and weaker for importing states. 

The severe scenario includes massive disruptive events and pandemic disease.  National cohesion will be under stress, armed conflict between states, perhaps including nuclear war, and social chaos. 

The catastrophic scenario includes 2 m SLR and widespread flooding.  Changes would be of a magnitude that would inflame religious turbulence, widespread water scarcity and food insecurity.

These scenarios involve loss of land from SLR and intensifying conflicts and tensions.

Geopolitical and econ implications affect the roles of China, the US, Russia and Middle East in energy sourcing and influence.  Armed forces may be used to access resources but military forces may also be overwhelmed by impacts.  These will feature N-S tensions, migration, health, resource conflicts, nuclear activity, global governance, domestic political change, balance of power, China’s role and the US response.

The UN issued a report identifying 5 channels through which climate change can affect security: vulnerability; development slowdown; coping and security; statelessness from loss of territory; international conflict.

Climate change exacerbates threats caused by poverty, weak institutions and mistrust.  5 actions can reduce risk, the most critical being a comprehensive, fair and effective global agreement of CC.

The report emphasizes prevention rather than reaction.  It recommends Action of win-win options and international attention to tipping points.  It recommends monitoring threats to survival through food and water insecurity; to economic development especially in primary sectors (agriculture, fisheries, forestry) and tourism; from uncoordinated coping such as involuntary migration outside any existing legal framework for ‘environmental migrants’; to survival of states from disappearance of land; and to international cooperation through resource conflict.

The threats can be minimized through mitigation through an international agreement, low energy economy, assistance to vulnerable communities and a slowing of deforestation; adaptation focused on food security through new cropping methods; health and human security; sustainable development; effective governance; and international cooperation

Climate change is an existential challenge facing the planet.  The UN is the core platform for achieving a glob consensus.  The key players are the industrialized north; the developing south, and the large emerging economies.  If the major players (Europe, US and China) can agree, a framework can emerge.  At present Europe is the most advanced, followed by the US, then China and then other developing and developed countries.

The international community needs bold action on mitigation and adaptation.  It must deal with large displacements of people, statelessness, falls in water supplies, competition over new resource opportunities.  The UN must mainstream climate change and remain the central agency for international cooperation with multilateral approaches to the challenges of CC.  Preventive diplomacy can involve regional organizations such as ASEAN, which has already taken broad, comprehensive and integrated measures in this area.  Military agencies have led in cooperation on disaster management.  ASEAN can develop an ‘ASEAN Plus’ approach to international cooperation through a variety forums. 

Climate change is an existential challenge at the global level which requires an immediate and simultaneous global response.

Q         China is vulnerable to CC and pays great attention to the issue.  Chinese military has participated in assistance and disaster relief to numerous countries and organized international seminars and participated in regional initiatives.  There are high expectations of China.  Given the complex relations among the major powers in the region, is ASEAN ready to play a role?

A         ASEAN has a role.  It is both ready and not ready.  Geopolitics in the area is becoming very complex.  There is no single multilateral body as cohesive as ASEAN.  ASEAN is positioning itself as the forum for the security architecture in the region.  This must include dealing with the threats of climate change.  But ASEAN fears getting caught between the superpowers of the US and China.  So ASEAN is playing a bridging role but also fears being caught.


Tues 26 March 10.30-11.15

Session III: Plenary Discussion on “Climate Change and its Security Implications: Ways to Enhance Cooperation

Suggestions by Discussant

Asst Prof Dr Tavida Kamolvej, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Political Science Faculty, Thammasat University/Advisor to National Disaster Warning Centre, Thailand

There is a need for a standard operational procedure (SOP) at a detailed level for international cooperation.  A common code of conduct exists.  The norms of the receiving country also need to be known.  Requests for assistance need specific details together with an assessment of capacity and assessment of damage. 

The detailed paper of Mr Kassim revealed much about the UN.  The climate change debate is long overdue.  Perhaps the time for planning has run out.  An increase of 2C is not widely understood but already too late.  The expected scenario is already being experienced.  Migration is already seen in Thailand.  Rice yields are already down.  Geopolitics will be a major problem.  The military must downplay traditional interpretation of security otherwise national interests will become an obstacle to resolving climate change.  China, the US and Europe may represent 50% of the world, but the other 50% can also take initiatives. Climate change must be part of all ASEAN pillars.  Emergency response seems to overshadow risk assessment and mitigation measures.  Action before disasters may be more important.


Tues 26 March 11.15-11.40

Concluding Statement

Maj Gen Chaianan Jantakananuruk, Director, Strategic Studies Centre

Deputy Chief of the Defense Forces, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I would first like to thank all the speakers for their contributions that have made this seminar such a learning experience for me and for all of us.  In addition to the speakers, participants have also contributed partly through their stimulating questions from the floor but also in lively discussions during the breaks.

The importance of learning from a wide range of fields was made clear from the keynote address by Dr Anond.  This overview of the physical effects of climate change made us realize that if we are going to understand climate change properly, we need to study not just climates and the weather, but also agriculture, systems analysis, geology, engineering, health and so on.  The list is long and very challenging.

It is clear that we will need to take urgent action to ensure that future generations will be able to live in this world.  But at the same time, as one of the questions from the floor pointed out, it is extremely difficult to make decisions because of the level of uncertainty that is involved.  There are a number of ways in which we can reduce sensitivity and exposure and increase coping capacity.  But the changes in the climate are already significant and are going to be even greater, and our response must also be on a large scale.  The difficulty is to know which actions will give us the greatest benefit while consuming the minimum of resources; in other words, which course of action will be most cost effective.  So I suppose we will need to know economics as well.

The presentation by Dr Wei was important if only because China’s size makes it important.  Dr Wei emphasized the importance of water management in China and reported on a number of interesting initiatives that the Chinese government are taking to minimize the effects of climate change.  I was particularly interested in the emphasis on ecological agriculture. This is something that Thailand is also pursuing.

One word of warning from Dr Wei concerned the prediction that climate change was likely to reduce overall food production in China even if there is adaptation to climate change.  This has to be a warning to all countries in the region because if countries the size of China can no longer feed themselves, the pressure on the rest of the world will be enormous.

I was however encouraged by the willingness of China to look for ways in which we can cooperate, rather than compete.

Mr Schnable explained the engineering challenges hat the US faces in combatting climate change.  While his presentation focused on the physical aspects of responding to natural disasters, I again realized that even a huge economy like the United States finds climate change to be a great challenge and I wonder how other countries can cope.

For example, Mr Schnable showed one picture which compared an old flood wall in New Orleans with a new one, designed under the ‘rebuild better’ policy.  Their old flood wall looks very much like the new flood walls that Thailand is trying to build right now after the floods of 2 years ago.  I cannot see how Thailand could afford to build flood walls like those that the US sees as necessary.

Colonel Takamatsu focused on the response of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces to the many natural disasters that have struck Japan in recent years.  Apart from the efficient and effective use of resources that we have seen on many occasions in Japan, one feature of the work of the JSDF stands out for me.  This is the way in which JSDF activities are so well integrated into the national response and the Japanese public’s great appreciation for their role.  The response to the challenges of climate change clearly has a cultural aspect which I think we must not ignore.

We should also look further into the Japanese responses to climate change that go beyond the extreme weather events that climate change will bring.

Participants’ questions shows that they were clearly impressed By the way that the Japanese public are given early warnings of natural disasters and the training that allows them to respond effectively to these warnings.

The presentation by Mr Kassim enlarged the debate into the world of politics and diplomacy and gave an overview of the possible consequences of climate change under three scenarios with different implications for security both in a traditional sense of national security and in a broader perspective.

He also outlined the UN analysis of the challenges caused by climate change and possible responses to these.  In particular, he detailed the role that ASEAN has played so far and the role it can play in the future, including cooperation among the armed forces of ASEAN and its partners.

Unfortunately, the history of international cooperation on climate change has not been as encouraging as we would hope.  And many of the issues that have divided nations in the past are still with us and have not been resolved.

Mr Kassim noted that the security aspects of climate change are becoming more prominent but security here does not mean only military security.  Environmental security, food security, human security, and many other dimensions are involved.  This means that the people in this room who are wearing a uniform will have to take a broader view of the issue of security than perhaps they have so far gained from their training and experience.

This leads me to my overall conclusion from the seminar.  Whether we like it or not, climate change will create a new kind of world.  We therefore must acquire new knowledge and understanding, we must develop new techniques and approaches, and we must find a new way of thinking.  In short, we must become a new kind of person.  I hope this seminar has helped you all in this process.

I hope that our foreign guests have enjoyed their stay in Thailand. I must apologize that the weather outside has been so hot.  Maybe I should blame global warming.  I wish all of you a safe journey home and I hope that you will look back on this seminar as a valuable learning experience.

Thank you

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