With many an ecological phenomenon impacting the society, an urgent need to understand how a range of emerging ecological challenges could trigger catastrophic instability and insecurity is the need of the hour, argues a new report by SIPRI.
The report– Five Urgent Questions on Ecological Security — highlights the major knowledge gaps surrounding five categories of ecological disruption and their implications for security:
- The accelerated spread of antimicrobial resistant pathogens due to pollution, rising temperatures and other factors
- The physiological and behavioural consequences of pollution
- The weakening and loss of natural systems that enable life and support human well-being
- Local and regional ecological ‘tipping points’
- The proliferation of harmful organisms and invasive species
UNDERSTANDING THE PHENOMENA
In the report, the authors say, ‘Today’s and tomorrow’s challenges for peace and security are unprecedented’. They say that one of their main drivers is an unfolding ecological crisis. Crafting responses to this challenge starts with thinking about the contemporaneous weakening of the natural foundations on which all social life is built. Just as it is impossible to imagine an economy without a society in which it functions, it is impossible to imagine a society without the biosphere to feed it, land on which to live, the hydrosphere and the atmosphere for water and air for life, and the climate sphere to regulate food production.”
We urgently need to understand more about how these ecological phenomena—which are themselves poorly understood—could impact society,’ said report co-author Dan Smith.
Each of these could have profound effects on public health. For example, antimicrobial resistance is already leading to the emergence of untreatable ‘superbugs’ and could ultimately make life-saving antibiotics ineffective. This could expose societies to new health crises and roll medical science back to the pre-antibiotic era. As the Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated, challenges in the realm of public health can have far-reaching and even destabilizing social, economic and political repercussions.
‘The security of people and nations is inextricably tied to the biosphere, which ecologists tell us is in dire shape,’ said Rod Schoonover. ‘It is crucial for the scientific and security communities to work together to understand the ramifications of ecological disruption, including—and well beyond—climate change.’
The authors stress that uncertainty and knowledge gaps should galvanize rather than delay both research and action to prevent, mitigate or adapt to consequences that could be catastrophic.
‘If we identify a potential risk, is it really a good idea to wait until we have proof when disaster strikes before we take action?’ said Dan Smith.