In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section The Climate Security Nexus

  • Introduction
  • Books: Multiple Perspectives of the C-S Nexus
  • Journals: Special Issues
  • International and National Policy Reports
  • Statements That Made Policy
  • From Environmental to Climate Security
  • Conceptual Frameworks
  • Quantitative Methodological Approaches Debated
  • Debated Case Studies (Syrian War and the Arab Spring)
  • Conditional Approaches to C-S Nexus Methodologies
  • Climate Change Adaptation and Conflict
  • Refuting the C-S Nexus

Geography The Climate Security Nexus
Julie Snorek, Daniel Abrahams
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0200


The progression of climate change impacts in the age of the Anthropocene will have dire consequences for our planet; yet, will it also bring about greater violence and conflict? The linking of climate change to violent conflict or the climate-security nexus (C-S nexus) was popularized in 2003 with the release of two security strategies from the Pentagon and the European Council. This idea gained momentum when, in 2007, the Nobel committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for their work at raising the world’s awareness of anthropogenic climate change. Scientists contributing to this dialogue took reference to the literature and theories of the environmental security debate, and much scholarship has ensued since. Although most empirical work has found no causal link between climate change and violent conflict, several quantitative studies have shown otherwise. A large majority of literature, however, focuses on the conditionalities of climate change on broader elements of human security and finds the proposed relationships to be neo-Malthusian and environmentally deterministic. The strength of this critique has resulted in wide disagreement of the validity of the C-S nexus—from those who recognize it as an important way to promote climate change mitigation to those that warn that such discourses serve an agenda for greater hegemony and militarized control of the Global South. These arguments, as well as their potential for policy response, are highlighted in this article through a body of literature that explains both how and why the C-S nexus is being discussed and the consequences to this and other securitization debates.

Books: Multiple Perspectives of the C-S Nexus

Expressing multiple disciplines from geography to political science to sociology, the works cited in this section provide multiple perspectives on the C-S nexus. Scheffran, et al. 2012 provides a comprehensive overview of the multiplicity of issues pertaining to this nexus from how conflict is framed to migration due to climate hazards. O’Lear and Dalby 2016 takes a more political ecology approach to addressing the issue, bringing in proximate causes of conflict, such as environmental justice and social movements. Other works provide alternating perspectives on the way in which security, environmental change, climate change, and conflict are linked. Dalby 2009, for example, critically examines what is meant by “security” in the context of environmental change, Selby and Hoffman 2016 problematize some of the dominant policy discourses related to climate change and security, Mearns and Norton 2010 examine how climate change alters patterns of inequality, raising questions about the injustice of climate impacts. Dietz, et al. 2016 demonstrates the risks and impacts of the securitization of climate change. Examining the topic from the perspective of environmental geopolitics, O’Lear 2018 provides new insights into how researchers might transcend the current vision of human–environment relationships to provide creative new solutions to the interconnected problems that people are facing.

  • Dalby, S. Security and Environmental Change. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2009.

    By questioning how security is distributed, defined, and framed, Dalby examines historical methods and predicts future management of climate and environmental change. This is a primer on the critical analysis of the climate-security nexus that questions the kind of social order humans are creating through this conceptual framing of C-S nexus.

  • Dietz, T., F. von Lucke, and Z. Wellmann. The Securitization of Climate Change: Actors, Processes, and Consequences. New York: Routledge, 2016.

    Through a comparative analysis of divergent national policies and treatments of climate change and security, the authors argue that the discursive framing of climate-security varies significantly, and thus provides a matrix for identifying differentialities in securitization of climate change.

  • Mearns, R., and A. Norton. Social Dimensions of Climate Change: Equity and Vulnerability in a Warming World. Washington, DC: World Bank, 2010.

    This volume describes the social dimensions of climate change, providing an overview of proximate causes of conflict.

  • O’Lear, Shannon. Environmental Geopolitics. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018.

    O’Lear provides a critical geographical lens to understand some of the most important environmental themes used to support arguments around human–environment relationships. These include human population trends and resource scarcity, conflict and violence, environmental degradation, climate security, and the use of scientific innovations to solve these problems. The author suggests some creative and dynamic approaches to human–environment relationships.

  • O’Lear, Shannon, and S. Dalby, eds. Reframing Climate Change: Constructing Ecological Geopolitics. London and New York: Routledge, 2016.

    The editors of this volume capture the ways in which the climate-security nexus debate has contributed to a broader ecological geopolitics. Stemming from multiple disciplines from climate science to climate justice to security to literacy, this volume problematizes the multiple lenses through which we are examining the climate change issue to move us into a broader understanding of human–environment relationships.

  • Scheffran, J., M. Brzoska, H. G. Brauch, P. M. Link, and J. Schilling, eds. Climate Change, Human Security, and Violent Conflict: Challenges for Societal Stability. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 2012.

    The authors have compiled a comprehensive textbook that includes theoretical, discourse, case studies, and regional discussions of climate change, human security, and violent conflict.

  • Selby, J., and C. Hoffman. Rethinking Climate Change, Conflict, and Security. New York: Routledge, 2016.

    Selby and Hoffman problematize the policy-led framings and assumptions of proposed linkages between climate change, conflict, and security through a series of articles previously published in Geopolitics (19.4 [2014]).

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