The following presents a brief assessment of a number of recent policy statements on the security implications of climate change before offering a critical appraisal of how inclinations towards democratic peace might be main- tained in the face of intensifying competition between states for diminishing stocks of natural resources. From a Rawlsian perspective, the motives necessary to recognize and act upon obligations of justice are becoming in creasingly strained by the depletion of global reserves of resources like gas, oil, fish, water and minerals.For John Rawls (1971:11), ‘justice as fairness’ is best understood as the product of a hypothetical agreement among the free members of a self-guiding ‘society of peoples’ like a nation state whose future flourishing depends upon the continued availability of sufficient supplies of essential natural resources, amongst other elements. What require greater sociological investigation are those mechanisms that currently restrict prospects for a greater resource sharing and simultaneously encourage anti- cosmopolitan tendencies towards inter-state rivalry and occasionally, conflict over diminishing stocks of re- sources worldwide. Arguably, the core element missing is a more practically oriented principle of ‘co- responsibility’ (Apel 1993: 9) for the deepening humanitarian effects of global climate change – crop failure, drought, flooding, leading to a greater incidence of disease, hunger, and mass displacement. Notions of ‘our common future’ (e.g., Bruntland Report 1987) have circulated in international political debate on climate change for more than three decades. Yet until recently, this discourse has not provoked any serious effort to cosmopolitanize the law of peoples or extend spheres of resource justice across sovereign borders in a manner that maximizes opportunities to secure a minimum of re- sources for all the peoples of this world. If anything, we have seen an intensification of state communitarian rea- soning. With the long-term resource supplies of bounded political communities seen as under increasing threat, a military defense of diminishing reserves is presented by many of the larger political powers as a legitimate ‘climate change security measure’.
In a Report to the European Council on Climate Change and International Security (March 2008), the European Commission urges the Council to establish a ‘preventa- tive security policy’ capable of responding effectively to the threats greater natural resource conflict will pose to the EU in the future. ‘Entire regions’, it argues, may be destabilized by a ‘politics of resentment between those most responsible for climate change and those most af- fected by it’. Threats to international security are most likely to emerge where governance capacity at the state level is overstretched and unable to manage the physical impacts of climate change. Where this occurs, civil unrest, inter-communal violence, mass migration, and po- litical instability become increasingly probable. In its 2010 Climate Change Adaptation Report, the US Department of Homeland Security echoes many of the con- cerns of the European Commission when it explains how as a ‘threat multiplier’, climate change may trigger ‘organized insurrections due to increased resource scarcity,
weakening states, and widening economic inequalities’ conditions that in severe cases are likely to ‘breed extremism and terrorism’ (p.3).
International Alert has identified forty-six states with a combined population of 2.7 billion people, where cli- mate change and water-related crises produce a high risk of violent conflict. In a further fifty-six states, 1.2 billion people, they estimate, are likely to experience various forms of climate-induced political instability in the decades ahead. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) (2012) notes how at least eighteen of the most violent conflicts in the last two decades have been fuelled by natural resource distribution, not only those centred on ‘high value’ resources like diamonds, gold, or oil but also more regular and increasingly scarce resources like fresh water. Figures produced by The Robert S. Strauss Center (Social Conflict in Africa Database 2011) support the concerns of the UN and point to a sharp rise in the incidence of hostilities in areas vulnerable to climate-related hazards, includ- ing Chad, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique where a high prevalence of drought and over-intensive resource exploitation all contribute to social unrest in regions pre- dicted to lose upwards of 75% of their arable lands in the decades ahead. Implicit in this policy discourse on the security implications of climate change is the notion that war, in certain circumstances, is a legitimate response to perceived threats to a community’s resource reserves and given the inevitability of shortages amongst many climate vulnerable states in the future, highly likely. An ‘uncomfortable paradox’ (Beck 2008:131) emerges alongside the institutionalization of a liberal democratic regime that in principle supports global peace and soli- darity under conditions of resource scarcity and growing climate adversity but in practice, also offers legitimation occasionally to its opposite – war - as a ‘just’ response to acts of resource aggression. It is crucial that current models of democratic peace begin to take on board the reasonableness of the larger po- litical powers’ justificatory claims for war in a resource challenged world. In particular, strategic denials of the fact that states are interdependent in their reliance upon certain resources subject to redistribution (e.g., a fish- ing commons or more fundamentally, the earth’s atmo-
3Ulrich Beck (2003:454) explains how the institutionalization of an ‘actually existing cosmopolitanism’ must maintain a critical pur- pose particularly in relation to current expressions of a burgeoning war mentality on issues like the future resource security of the com- munities of this world. The ‘ambivalent transitional co-existence’ of a lingering ‘national gaze’ on climate adversities, for instance, with more cosmopolitan visions of our common future is more the prod- uct of a persisting lack of reflexivity in the self-understandings of the national perspective of states, the latter of which gives rise to bla- tant moral asymmetries and radical inequalities of opportunity in the context of globally sustained climate risks.
The relevant community to deliberate on such is- sues is international, not national or regional in isolation, especially when we take into consideration the various ‘spillover effects’ of the escalating ‘race for resources’. As communitarians have argued (e.g., Walzer 1994), norms that grant persons control over matters of common concern should coincide with the communities of which they are a part. Applying this reasoning to the issue of resource scarcity, the latter is a matter of ‘common concern’, one that is international in scope and, therefore, transcends the exclusive jurisdiction of individual nation states. If basic resources are to be preserved both now and into the future, then all within this globally extended community must abide by the principles of a peace- ful and cooperative cosmopolitan scheme of distribu- tive justice to ensure humanity’s common survival (see UN General Assembly Resolution 65/159, December 20, 2010 ‘Protection of a Global Climate for Present and Future Generations of Humankind’). As Vanderheiden (2008) warns, a self-interested ‘race to the bottom’ in climate policy, even by one nation, can undermine overall commitments to an inter-generational justice. The ques- tion then is how can we improve prospects for a prin- cipled cooperation on resource distribution amongst the ‘global commons’?
According to Delanty (2013), what are required are sub- stantial socio-cognitive shifts in self-understanding and ways of thinking about our common membership of ‘world risk society’ (Beck & Levy, 2013). It is about activating cosmopolitan learning potentials in the search for solutions to problems that eventually will threaten all of humanity. The sheer scale and speed of resource depletions today require the full range of our principle- reflexive capacities to adjust to new global realities and open up the space of the political to new possibilities for global peace under changing ecological conditions. Arguably, the best way to ensure perpetual peace is to trans-nationalize procedures for peace building (Bohman 2012). The latter may take the form of multiple deliber- ative procedures (legal, political and public procedures coordinated by one, globally elected steering committee) that debate the conduct of resource wars from multiple angles and perspectives and establish, on the basis of ongoing discussion, a new set of requirements for a ‘just global peace’ and ongoing democratic compromise.