Climate Change and Ecological Security

Presented by ANU College of Asia & the Pacific

There is increasing engagement with the relationship between climate change and security in international relations thought and practice. Yet the nature of this engagement differs significantly, illustrating radically different conceptions of the nature of the threat posed, to whom and (most importantly) what constitute appropriate policy responses. These different climate security discourses encourage practices as varied as national adaptation strategies and globally-oriented mitigation action. Given these differences, it becomes important to consider whether we can identify progressive discourses of climate security: approaches underpinned by defensible ethical assumptions and encouraging effective practical responses to climate change. While discourses of national, international and human security dominate existing engagement with the climate-security relationship, here I make a case for an ecological security discourse. Such a discourse orients towards ecosystem resilience and the rights and needs of the most vulnerable across space (populations of developing worlds), time (future generations) and species (other living beings). It is both morally more defensible than other climate security discourses and practically most likely to encourage practices oriented towards redressing the problem of climate change itself. This paper notes the limits of existing accounts of climate security before outlining the contours of an ‘ecological security discourse’ regarding climate change.

Matt McDonald is a Reader in International Relations in the School of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Queensland. His principal research interests are in the area of critical theoretical approaches to security and their application to environmental change and Australian foreign and security policy. He has published on these themes in a range of journals and is the author of Security, the Environment and Emancipation (Routledge 2012) and co-author of Ethics and Global Security (Routledge 2014). He is co-editor of Australian Journal of Politics and History.