Rockström on Climate Risk and Conflict at Munich Security Conference

02/21/2022 - Human-made climate change has arrived at centre-stage in the security community. As the 2022 Munich Security Report shows, attendants at this year's Munich Security Conference perceived climate change as a real security threat. Against this and the backdrop of rising tensions between Ukraine and Russia, Johan Rockström had been invited to Munich to address the global security experts, including heads of states and high-ranking military officials, to share science’s latest assessment of climate risks and security, and to sketch a way forward.
Rockström on Climate Risk and Conflict at Munich Security Conference
"The Climate crisis is not an environmental issue, it is about Prosperity, Equity and Security. It is your agenda, our common agenda": Johan Rockström at the 2022 Munich Security Conference (photo MSC/Hildenbrand)

“We are currently experiencing a serious hammering by multiple, inter- connected, systemic risks and crises, which together threaten global security," Rockström said. "The military threat to Ukraine, part of a wider geopolitical crisis. The surging and volatile energy prices. The climate crisis that hits harder than expected, earlier than expected, and affects all nations. This is a world of rising turbulence and systemic risks. The Scientific conclusion is that the creeping climate crisis has reached a point of a Planetary Emergency. An emergency that if we fail to solve it will pose major immediate and long-term security threats, that interact with pandemics and conflict.”

With his address, Rockström set the stage for a high-level panel discussion at the conference’s main stage: John Kerry, US Special Envoy for Climate Change; Franziska Brantner, Parliamentary State Secretary in Germany’s  Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action; Abdul Momen, Bangladesh’s Minister of Foreign Affairs; and Sultan Al Jaber, Minister for Industry and Advanced Technology, Special Envoy for Climate of the United Arab Emirates and Chief of Abu Dhabi’s National Oil Company.

The session’s moderator, The Economist’s Zanny Minton Beddoes, set the tone for the session: “The implications of climate change are the top security risk perceived by the people polled for the Munich Security Index 2022. Progress on climate change is essential for future security. Right now, in the midst of the biggest European security crisis since the end of the Cold War, we also see the geopolitical risks around energy supply. And with energy prices surging there is also growing concern about a popular backlash to the climate agenda. In short, the links between geopolitics, energy security and progress on the climate agenda are very much top of the agenda, right here and now.”

After a pandemic-induced break in 2021, the 58th Munich Security Conference returned to its usual venue in Munich, the Hotel Bayerischer Hof, but with a reduced number of guests and media representatives as well as smaller delegations.

“Global Governance must be strengthened to match the global climate security risks, e.g., by making climate security a standing top priority item on the UN Security Council. We need to identify hot spots where climate stress meets weak governance. Science can help us here. And we need to move from incremental to exponential change towards a zero-world economy. For this we must complement incremental UN gatherings with committed Alliances for change – I’m thinking of the G7 here, or 'Climate Clubs' as proposed by Germany”, Rockström laid out.


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