Climate change and geopolitical instability: 11 high-risk countries

Residents use a boat to move in a flooded neighbourhood in Kareli Gaus Nagar area of Allahabad on August 12, 2021 following heavy monsoon rainfalls that caused the overflowing of the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers.

Sanjay Kanojia | AFP | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – The nation’s collective intelligence community identified 11 countries vulnerable to geopolitical instability due to climate change in its first-ever National Intelligence Estimate on Climate Change report.

According to the report, Afghanistan, Burma, Colombia, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Iraq, Nicaragua, North Korea and Pakistan are likely to face a slew of extreme weather episodes that pose threats to energy, food, water and health security.

“Diminished energy, food and water security in the 11 countries probably will exacerbate poverty, tribal or ethnic intercommunal tensions and dissatisfaction with governments, increasing the risk of social, economic, and political instability,” said the report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the nation’s 18 intelligence agencies.

More generally, “intensifying physical effects will exacerbate geopolitical flashpoints, particularly after 2030, and key countries and regions will face increasing risks of instability and need for humanitarian assistance,” the report said.

The report outlines a number of scenarios:

  • Rising temperatures and increased precipitation may amplify mosquito and diarrheal disease outbreaks in South Asian and Central American countries, worsening health outcomes and causing additional loss of life.
  • More frequent and intense cyclones are likely to contaminate water sources, with scientific models suggesting dengue incidence will likely increase in Afghanistan, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Iraq and Pakistan.
  • Climate change will likely accelerate the loss of biodiversity leading to more extinctions of plants and animals that can no longer survive in their traditional habitats and risking ecosystems that global populations rely on for food and medicine.
  • Prolonged dry spells followed by excessive rainfall have devastated maize and bean crops in Central America. Yields for these and other crops in Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua are projected to decline significantly, raising the prospect of food insecurity and a drop in crucial export commodities.

The report adds that the 11 countries are most likely to lack financial resources and governance capacity to adapt to climate change effects.

“Foreign governments, international institutions, and private investment can offer financial aid, technical expertise, and climate adaptation technologies to alleviate some of these difficulties — such as food and water insecurity and urban poverty — but in the 11 countries, these efforts are likely to be hindered by poor governance, weak infrastructure, endemic corruption, and a lack of physical access,” the report said.

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