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Navigating a global crisis: climate change and NATO

Notable institutions, such as the United Nations and the European Union, have declared that climate change endangers international security.

Amar Čaušević / Published on 16 February 2023

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Al-Marashi, I., & Causevic, A. (2023). NATO as a climate alliance treaty organization. In Navigating a Global Crisis: Climate Change and NATO, Maternowski, C., ed., pp. 45-49. Special Publication. The NATO Association of Canada.

View from Polar Ice Rim, Svalbard, Norway

View from Polar Ice Rim, Svalbard, Norway. Photo: UN Photo/Mark Garten / Flickr

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) shares these concerns and has expressed a desire to influence the global movement to meet this threat. However, the suitability and practicability of this objective have elicited conflicting opinions. For sceptics, an alliance predicated on safeguarding its members from the hostile actions of other states lacks a compelling rationale for mobilizing against climate change. Others argue that NATO, which has a history of facilitating cooperation on environmental issues and through scientific venues, can and must make institutional space for climate change in the interests of global security and operational efficiency. But the amount of attention or effort that NATO should devote to climate change varies depending on the observer. Furthermore, pundits have diverged on which of the strategies put forward — frameworks premised on specific theories or the invocation of Article 5, the North Atlantic Treaty’s collective defence clause, for instance — should influence or guide NATO as the alliance navigates climate change.

This volume wades into and complements, amplifies, and advances these debates by surveying climate change and its ramifications for global security, especially for the thirty-member strong (and growing) alliance. Indeed, while not necessarily their focus, NATO appears in each of the nine original contributions herein and provides the connective thread that binds seemingly disparate topics into a coherent discourse. Through these analyses, which in totality offer a tour d’horizon and appraisal of the security situation on a hotter Earth, the extensive, globe-spanning, and significant complexities that climate change presents NATO and other actors come into sharper focus.

The volume ends with a contribution from Ibrahim Al-Marashi and Amar Causevic, who jointly sketch how climate change affects security in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and why this matters for NATO. Proximate to Turkey, a NATO member, MENA faces significant climate-related challenges, such as desertification, that, along with structural problems, engender security risks — now and in the future. Al-Marashi and Causevic contend that NATO, which has increasingly noted and tried to attend to climate change, must take a firmer stand in this area of relevance to the alliance’s mandate. Deepening engagement in the ever-important MENA on issues connected to climate change, which promises to grow in seriousness, presents an opportunity that NATO should pursue.

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