Via the geopolitics of climate change in Europe and EU

Climate change is a gradual process that takes place over a relatively long period and affects both natural resources and human societies. The latest reports of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, (IPCC), deal with the deterioration of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS), the thawing of permafrost and tundra, the weakening of the North Atlantic current (thermohaline circulation), and the rise of temperature and the sea level. The climate change affects economics and societies in different world regions. However, the question now is: Will the climate change have a significant impact on politics within states and in their geopolitical map?

In fact, the relationship between climate change and politics is highly complex. To be clear, we are not going to talk how the climate change will transform particular political systems but we will try to explain how the political systems would interpret climate change, both in long and short term, and how the climate change affects geopolitics in world regions, specifically, in European countries and EU.

The climate change has entered the political debate and media in full force during 2007 and more recently, the climate change becomes substantial for geopolitical issues. For this, the climate change is an irregular factor that affect both national and international political calculations worldwide.

Well, the climate change confronts the EU with a series of challenges. In fact, the growing geopolitical significance of climate change has had a noticeable impact on the relationship between the EU and the rest of the world, as well as among its member states. For example, the UNFCCC summit in Copenhagen demonstrated a realignment of the geopolitical order when the so-called BASIC group (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) converged on a common position which was able to block EU-led proposals for binding GHG emission cuts.

Moreover, according to the climate change scenarios developed by the IPCC, Europe will be very unevenly affected by climate change. The warming in Europe is prognosticated to be higher than the global average. In Northern Europe, the warming should occur during winter seasons whereas in Southern Europe and Mediterranean areas it will occur during summer seasons. The difference in the regions’ socio-political systems will confront the EU with a series of challenges but its destabilizing potential depends largely on decisions and events within other areas.

More precisely, the effects of climate change is not the same in all European countries and it will affect differently each state. For instance, there is not the same geopolitical effect of climate change between north and south of Europe. It is questionable if northern European states will be able to face ability to drive the supposed change in the Arctic to build a new relationship or it will represent more conflicts. Otherwise, over the coming decades, new sea-routes might be opened due to the melting of the Arctic ice. This possibility could be attractive for shipping between Europe and China but also between Europe and the American Pacific since it presents shorter distances compared with today’s shipping routes. This certainly represents a changed geopolitical conditions.

Shorter lines of transportation could entail decreased costs and therefore be beneficial to the economies of the Northern Hemisphere and may bring conflicts with the neighbour states. Due to the same climatological systems, the Southern Europe and the North Africa will see similar effects of climate change in terms of rising temperatures and decrease in precipitation. However, agriculture in southern Europe could be in worse conditions than that of Northern Africa due to the problems of water supply and its excessive usage in industries.

Climate change can generate also resource conflicts. In the Middle East, for instance, water is considered as a scarce resource and several prognoses manifest that tensions over access to water might lead to conflict. Politicians and analysts alike convey the picture that water sources have links to a conflict ranging from the plausible to the almost certain. Furthermore, such links are expected to become stronger under conditions of climate change and particularly so in already arid regions like Middle East and Central Asia.

Well, the former UN secretary general Boutros Ghali warned in 2005 that war between the riparian states of the Nile River is “almost inevitable”, a statement which is cited in certain. In such case of resource conflict, do we wonder about some new geopolitics according to the climate change in the EU?

In fact, the relationship between climate change and politics is highly complex. To be clear, we are not going to talk how the climate change will transform particular political systems but we will try to explain how the political systems would interpret climate change, both in long and short term, and how the climate change affects geopolitics in world regions, specifically, in European countries and EU.

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