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Framing Climate Change: The Need for a Human Security Perspective

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S. Nanthini, Tamara Nair

Climate change has now become the defining issue of the time – and one of the biggest threats to humanity. The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report has proven to be a “reality check”, making it clear that climate change is already affecting the world by laying out its various manifestations including temperature increases, sea level rise and changes in rainfall patterns. With the stress placed on the economic, social and political systems that underpin the international system, it is now becoming increasingly clear that climate change is a development, economic, health, and security risk, – essentially a human and national security risk. The impacts of climate change range from the direct, as seen by the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather phenomena, to the indirect, such as migration, resource scarcity and conflict – situations in which climate change acts as a ‘threat multiplier’. As such, it is now imperative to take into account the ways in which climate change is discussed, moving the discourse beyond the environmental, scientific and securitisation framings, which have dominated academic and policy discussions, into one that is more humanistic, taking into account the present and emerging vulnerabilities that are being generated through “dynamic social, political, economic, institutional, cultural and technological conditions and their historical legacies”.

With the renewed interest in human security as seen in the release of the 2020 Human Development Report and its focus on the Anthropocene, as well as the latest IPCC findings released in August 2021, there is an urgency in focusing on, not only human-induced climate change but also in addressing the impacts of this climate variability on the global populations, especially the millions of vulnerable people that will be directly (and indirectly) affected. This NTS Insight will explore how investigating the impacts of climate change through a human security lens, in addition to the current narratives, might ensure the security and stability of communities in a new climate future.