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FEATURE: Amazonia’s security dilemma – Why climate security matters


by Martin Ross

Amazonia, or often called Amazon rainforest, refers to the vast territory that covers most of the Amazon Basin of South America. Extremely rich in biodiversity, this tropical rainforest spans over five and a half million square kilometres, of which more than 60% lie within Brazilian political boundaries. Almost 40% are part of 8 South American countries including Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. 50-60% of Amazonia’s 20 million inhabitants live in urban areas, such as Manaus in Brazil or Iquitos in Peru.

On August 14th the Amazon was honoured in Iquitos (Peru) as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, getting the vote of hundreds of millions of people around the planet in the global contest conducted by the New Seven Wonders Foundation (N7W).

Over the years the Amazon rainforest has come increasingly under pressure, mainly due to land-use change (deforestation) by human activities. However, deforestation is no longer the biggest single threat to the ecosystem – climate change also takes its toll on the natural habitat. Due to global warming, the Amazon rainforest could become unsustainable under conditions of severely reduced rainfall and increased temperatures, leading to an almost complete loss of rainforest cover in the basin by 2100. Apart from resulting in a major loss of natural and cultural wealth, it might also shake the very foundation for the inhabitants’ access to global and regional ecosystem services such as food, water, energy and climate regulation. Furthermore, the increasing struggle to find access to these goods, in combination with institutional weakness, governance and equity, might also trigger inter- and intraregional conflict and instability. Additionally, populations can be displaced due to severe climate conditions or due to lack of viable economic alternatives caused by land-use change.

Therefore, CIAT’s Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area and the Global Canopy Programme (GCP), supported by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), are currently working on a project called “Amazonia – The Security Agenda (Responding to Imminent Threats)”. The project mainly focusses on Brazil, Colombia and Peru and identifies the impacts of climate change beyond the borders and highlights the interdependency between the following securities: climate, water, food, energy and health. The project’s approach defines climate change as a “threat multiplier”, exacerbating traditional threats and generating new threats to food, water, energy, and health security in the region as well as beyond the region. For example, climate change impacts on hydrology could impact food, energy and water security and policies aimed at dealing with one security in isolation may not be as effective.

The project aims to put climate change, which could be a potential threat to global security, at the centre of the development agenda. The outcome of this significant project will be the production of a set of policy recommendations aimed at multi-sectoral decision makers, reframing climate in the development agenda and focusing on regional co-operation, whilst highlighting the potential to shift from a threat multiplier to an opportunity multiplier through maintaining natural capital. In order to achieve this, the project will identify the extent to which climate change will exacerbate potential national or regional conflicts and its consequences on national or trans-boundary security. What does it mean for regional co-operation and what are the opportunities to meet global commodity demand through maintaining natural capital? Through what mechanisms can economic, social and environmental development continue at current levels in the region without exacerbating security impacts?

“Amazonia – The Security Agenda” is looking for the best mechanisms to strengthen current regional policies and strategies by collating the current state of research knowledge, and explore (through debate, policy analysis, multidisciplinary expert knowledge and scenario planning) potential climate compatible pathways for the Amazon region.

Article originally posted on: CIAT Blogs

Image credit:  Neil Palmer (CIAT)

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