Journal of Environmental Protection, 2011, 2, 1162-1171
doi:10.4236/jep.2011.29135 Published Online November 2011 (
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Global Climate Change and Emerging
Environmental and Strategic Security Issues for
South Asia
Amarendra Nath Sarkar
Asia Pacific Institute of Management, Institutional Area, Jasola Vihar, New Delhi, India.
Received July 12th, 2011; revised September 8th, 2 0 11; accepted Oc t ober 16th, 2011.
Global climate change-essentially an adverse consequence of global warming, is principally caused by progressive
build-up and extensive spread of greenhouse gases (GHGs) across countries, regions or continents because of earths
rotational movemen t. The potent sources of GHGs are fossil-fu els and biomass. With the increasing pace of globaliza-
tion, industrializatio n and rapid change of life-style the demand and consumption of th ese feed-stocks to stimulate eco-
nomic growth is steadily rising- both in the developing and developed economy. In the process, the emissions level is
also rising phenomenally; and of late become quite alarming - more in the fo rmer than latter case, affectin g thereb y th e
environmental quality as also its security concerns globally. This pap er highlig hts th e major impacts of globa l warming
and consequential climate change on the environmental quality and overall security aspects- including commercial,
strategic and defense angles for the South-Asian region. The paper also discusses some relevant aspects linking the lar-
ger question of energy security with environmental security through the approach of sustainable energy development
for envisioning a balanced economic development as well as growth perspective for South Asia. The significance of
International cooperation in the mitigation and adaptation of climate change impacts with special reference to Asia-
Pacific and South Asian region is also discussed at some length in the paper.
Keywords: Global Climate, Environmental Security, South Asia, Sustainable Energy Development, Mitigation and
Adaptation, International Cooperation
1. Global Warming and Climate Change
The terms global warming and climate change are often
used co-tremendously, but the two phenomena are diffe-
rent. Global warming is the rise in global temperatures
due to an increase of heat-trapping carbon emissions in
the atmosphere. Climate change, on the other hand, is a
more general term that refers to changes in many clima-
tic factors (viz. temperature and precipitation) arou nd the
world. These changes are happening at different rates
and in different ways. The world mostly agrees that some-
thing needs to be done about global warming and climate
change. The first stumbling block, however, has been
trying to get an agreement on a unanimous framework.
In 1988, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
was created by the United Nations Environment Pro-
gramme and the World Meteorological Organization to
assess the scientific knowledge on global warming. The
IPCC concluded in 1990 that there was broad interna-
tional consensus that climate change was human-induced.
That report led the way to an intern ation al co nven tio n for
climate change—namely the United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), signed by
over 150 countries at the Rio Earth Summit in 92 [1].
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported
that greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the global
atmosphere were rising as a result of human ghg emis-
sions, principally from fossil fuel burning. This is clearly
a ‘global problem’. There is yet another dimension to the
global problem. While the global dependency on fossil
energy for economic growth remains nearly 100% at this
time, the IPCC also noted that cuts in GHG emissions in
the order of 60% - 80% were required immediately if
rising atmospheric GHG concentrations were to be stabi-
lized just at the present raised values [2].
2. Impact and Risks of Global Warming
As the earth’s surface absorbs the sun’s rays, the heat
Global Climate C hange and Emergi n g Environmental and Strategic Security Issues for South Asia1163
bounces back, and a part of it ultimately escapes into
space. On its way through the atmosphere the heat is
absorbed by carbon dioxide and methane molecules; this
process raises the temperature on the earth’s surface. The
more carbon dioxide there is in the atmosphere, the more
heat is entrapped. This phenomenon is called the “green-
house effect”. The ‘greenhouse effect’ is the process in
which the emission of infrared radiation by the atmo-
sphere warms a planet’s surface [3]. World’s carbon di-
oxide emissions are expected to increase by 1.9 percent
annually between 2001 and 2025. Much of the increase
in these emissions is expected to occur in the developing
world where emerging economies, such as China and
India, fuel economic development with fossil energy.
Developing countries’ emissions are expected to grow
above the world av erage at 2.7 percent annually b etween
2001 and 2025; and surpass emissions of industrialized
countries near 2018 [4].
The major impacts of global climate changes are ma-
nifested in gradual rise in global surface temperature (i.e.
global warming), melting of ice-bergs and concomitant
rise in sea-levels, continuous build-up of greenhouse gases
leading to ‘green-house effect’, depletion of ozone con-
centration/layers, catastrophic natural disaster and cala-
mities (e.g. hurricane, typhoons, earthquakes, landslides,
Tsunami), loss of vegetation, plant, animal lives, biodi-
versities, marine flora & fauna etc. The widespread re-
treat of glaciers and icecaps in the 21st century will also
lead to higher surface temperatures on land and increas-
ing water stress [5]. By 2025, as much as two-thirds of
the world population, much of it in the developing world,
may be subjected to moderate to high water stress. Esti-
mates of the effects of climate change on crop yields are
predominantly negative for the tropics, even when adap-
tation and direct effects of CO2 on plant processes are
taken into consideration. Ecological productivity and
biodiversity will be altered by climate change and sea-
level rise, with an increased risk of extinction of some
vulnerable species. In the final analysis, scientists will
continue to study the critical and important issues of the
effects of adverse air quality and climate change on crop
production as also the larger question of global food se-
curity [6,7]. Industrialized co untries are largely responsi-
ble for the build-up of GHGs in the atmosphere thus far,
and must bear the brunt of the mitigation effort. But
deve- loping countries can play an important role in re-
ducing emissions growth within the context of their con-
tinued economic development. Nearly 80 percent of the
world’s population lives in developing countries, which
already account for over 40 percent of current world
emissions and given pr esent trends, this share will rise to
56 percent by 2025 [8].
The impacts on human systems of climate change will
probably be distributed unevenly. Some regions and sec-
tors are expected to experience benefits while others will
experience costs. With greater levels of warming (greater
than 2˚C - 3˚C, relative to 1990 levels), it is likely that
benefits will decline and costs increase. Low-latitude and
less-developed areas are probably at the greatest risk
from climate change. With human systems, adaptation
potential for climate change impacts is considerable,
although the costs of adaptatio n are largely unkn own and
potentially large. Climate change will likely result in re-
duced diversity of ecosystems and the extinction of many
species. Adaptation potential for biological and geophy-
sical systems is estimated to be lower than that for hu-
man systems.
2.1. Concern over Glacier Retreat, Rise of Sea
Levels and Temperature
According to a UN climate report, the Himalayan gla-
ciers that are the sources of Asia’s biggest rivers—
Ganges, Indus, Brahmaputra, Yangtze, Mekong, Salween
and Yellow—could disappear by 2035 as temperatures
rise. Approximately, 2.4 billion people live in the drain-
age basin of the Himalayan rivers. India, China, Pakistan,
Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar could experience floods
followed by droughts in coming decades. In India alone,
the Ganges provides water for drinking and farming for
more than 500 million people. It has to be acknowledged,
however, that increased seasonal runoff of Himalayan
glaciers led to increased agricultural production in north-
ern India throughout the 20th century. The role of the
oceans in global warming is a complex one. The oceans
serve as a sink for carbon dioxide, taking up much that
would otherwise remain in the atmosphere, but increased
levels of CO2 have led to ocean acidification. Further-
more, as the temperature of the oceans increases, they
become less capable to absorb excess CO2. G l obal wa rm-
ing is projected to have a number of effects on the oceans.
Ongoing effects include rising sea levels due to thermal
expansion and melting of glaciers and ice sheets, and
warming of the ocean surface, leading to increased tem-
perature stratification. The temperature of the Antarctic
Southern Ocean rose by 0.17˚C (0.31°F) between the
1950s and the 1980s, near ly twice the rate for the world’s
oceans as a whole.
2.2. Effects on Agriculture and Food Security
Climate change is expected to have a mixed effect on
agriculture, with some regions benefiting from moderate
temperature increases and others being negatively affe-
cted. Low-latitude areas are at most risk of suffering de-
creased crop yields. Mid- and high-latitude areas could
see increased yields for temperature increases of up to
1˚C - 3˚C (relative to the period 1980-1999). According
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Global Climate C hange and Emergi n g Environmental and Strategic Security Issues for South Asia
to the IPCC report above 3˚C of warming, global agri-
cultural production might decline, but this statement is
made with low to medium confidence [2]. Most of the
agricultur al studies assessed in the Report do not include
changes in extreme weather events, changes in the spread
of pests and diseases, or potential developments that may
aid adaptation to climate change. Increasing global tem-
perature means that ecosystems will change; some
species are being forced out of their habitats because of
changing conditions, while others are flourishing. Sec-
ondary effects of global warming, such as lessened snow
cover, rising sea levels, and weather changes, may influ-
ence not only human activities but also the ecosystem.
The continued retreat of glaciers will have a number of
different effects. In areas that are heavily dependent on
water runoff from glaciers that melt during the warmer
summer months, a continuation of the cu rrent retreat will
eventually deplete the glacial ice and substantially reduce
or eliminate runoff. This situation is particularly acute
for irrigation in South America, where numerous artifi-
cial lakes are filled almost exclusively by glacial melt.
Central and South Asian countries have also been his-
torically dependent on th e seasonal glacier melt water for
irrigation and drinking supplies.
According to some recent study it is projected that by
2025, two thirds of the world’s people are likely to live
in countries with water shortages [9]. Remaining fossil
fuel reserves are increasingly concentrated in relatively
few countries—not usually those with the greatest de-
mand. Food production per person has leveled off, and
stocks are falling. The most vulnerable groups in terms
of foo d security during floods in south Asia under climate
change will be the poor, women and children. Current
procedures for the transfer of climate adaptation funds
tend to marginalize these groups. Food production is
being disrupted by flooding more frequently and more
severely than before, due to climate change. By 2080 the
situation is likely to be much worse than at present. Ad-
aptation has to encourage management of all stages of
food security, from the farm to the consumer, both urban
and rural. Measures have to be participatory, from the
community to the international level8. While many indi-
vidual initiatives offer hope and demonstrate good prac-
tice, institutional, economic and environmental factors
may all impede the maintenance and enhancement of
food security in south Asia. Innovative forms of food
production, distribution and storage will have to be de-
veloped. The Asian region spans polar, temperate, and
tropical climates and is home to over 3 billion people. As
the climate warms, many mountain glaciers may disap-
pear, permafrost will thaw, and the northern forests are
likely to shift further north. Rapid pop ulation growth and
development in countries like China and India will put
additional pressures on natural ecosystems and will lead
to a rapid rise in the release of greenhouse gases into the
atmosphere unless steps are taken to curtail emissions
3. Global Warming and Adverse
Environmental & Economic Impacts in
South Asia
The impact of global warming is visible in communities
throughout the world as demonstrated most recently and
dramatically in North America and Europe, where unex-
pected heat waves and storms caused by the shifting cli-
mate decimated crops and inflicted serious financial
losses on farmers. Inhabitants of low lying islands, such
as Tuvalu, the Maldives and the Solomon Islands, are
finding their drinking water adulterated by rising seas
that also threaten to obliterate parts of their national ter-
ritories. Even more catastrophic is the rapid shrinking of
mountain glaciers that feed lakes and rivers; the ultimate
outcome is the drying up of vital melt-water sources for
irrigation, hydroelectric schemes and drinking. The re-
treat of glaciers in the Andes is already plummeting wa-
ter supplies in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. People in the
South Asian part of Himalayas are not exempt: Melting
glaciers in the world’s highest mountain range are swell-
ing local lakes, triggering flash-flooding in the narrow
valleys below. In 1994, a glacier-lake outburst in the
Lunana region of Bhutan flooded a number of villages,
endangering the lives of thousands of people. The burst
of the Dudh Koshi Lake in Nepal in 1997 had similar
repercussions. This trend, experts argue, will accelerate
in the next half decade, creating social and economic
problems not only for the villages in the Himalayan foo-
thills but also for the entire South Asian region [11].
South- east Asia is one of the world’s most vulnerable
regions to climate change and could face conflict over
failing rice yields, lack of water and high economic costs,
a major Asian Devel opment Bank report shows.
The region’s economies could lose as much as 6.7 per-
cent of combined gross domestic p rodu ct year ly by 2 100,
more than twice the global average loss, according to the
ADB’s report on the economics of climate change in
Southeast Asia [12]. The global economic downturn
could delay funding for climate change mitigation meas-
ures by regional governments. According to the findings
of ADB study, if nothing was done globally to fight cli-
mate change, Southeast Asia could suffer a decline in
rice output potential of about 50 percent on average by
2100 against 1990 levels. These schemes could involve
the shift to renewable and clean energy options for the
power and transport sectors across Southeast Asia, home
to nearly 600 million people. UNEP scientists have sur-
veyed more than 4000 glaciers in Nepal and Bhutan and
opyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Global Climate C hange and Emergi n g Environmental and Strategic Security Issues for South Asia1165
concluded that 20 glacial lakes in the Bhutanese Hima-
layas and 24 glacial lakes in Nepal pose a potential ha-
zard. They warn that a number of lakes are still unex-
plored, especially in India (where most of the Himalayas
lie), Pakistan, and Afghanistan. In order to make a com-
prehensive report, UNEP-ICIMOD’s (United Nations
Environment Programme - International Centre for Inte-
grated Mountain Development) study will expand to all
South Asian countries, including China, as well neigh-
boring countries in central Asia.
Environment, Development and Human Security:
Perspectives from South Asia
According to Najam [13]—a Research scholar of Tufts
University, South Asia is the world’s most impoverished
region, with the highest rate of illiteracy and over 500
million people living below the absolute poverty line.
Given this context, Najam argued that it is erroneous to
think of security primarily as a matter of states and their
military alliances and to define security as the safety of
borders and institutions from outside threats. Rather, the
true sources of insecurity in South Asia are non-military
threats arising within the nations—such as poverty, so-
cial vulnerability, and ecological resiliency. He ex-
plained that in Bangladesh, “poverty is, and will remain
the most important source of vulnerability and insecu-
rity.” As a result, Najam advocated that academics and
policy-makers eschew the traditio nal conception of secu-
rity and instead focus on human security and institu tional
failure. According to Najam poverty plays a more central
role than has been acknowledged in linking environ-
mental degradation and conflict. In Nepal, for example,
“environmental stresses interact with societal vulnerabi-
lity, disrupted dev elopment, and perverse markets to cre-
ate an atmosphere of insecurity.” Thus, he stated that
chronic and structural poverty may be a required condi-
tion for the connection between the environment and
security to be made. He also suggested that good gover-
nance is critical to ensuring resource availability and
sustainable development. Based on these insights, Najam
made some general conclusions and recommendations.
First, for developing countries, especially in South Asia,
it is best to conceptualize env ironment and security with-
in the context of sustainable development. Second, the
challenges of environment and security in South Asia are
primarily a problem of institutions and governance. Fi-
nally, there is a small potential for forging more coopera-
tive relations in the region based on the nexus of envi-
ronment and security. According to Burgess, Stephen [14]
India has an emerging security strategy influenced by the
1998 Indo-Pak nuclear tests, the Nation al Security Advi-
sory Board’s Draft Nuclear Weapons Doctrine, the con-
cept of limited conventio nal war, and endorsement of mi-
ssile defense. India’s defense capabilities lag behind the
development of strategic thinking. However, India’s
partnership with United States has opened the door to
further developments in security strategy and defense
4. Climate Change and Its Possible Impact
on India and the Subcontinent
India, the seventh largest country in the world and the
second largest in Asia, has a total geographical area of
329 Mha, of which only 305 Mha is the reporting In de-
veloping countries like India, climate change could rep-
resent an additional stress on ecological and socioeco-
nomic systems that are already facing tremendous pre-
ssures due to rapid urbanization, industrialization and
economic development. With its huge and growing po-
pulation, a 7500-km long densely populated and low-
lying coastline, an d an economy that is closely tied to its
natural resource base, India is considerably vulnerable to
the impacts of climate change. The various studies con-
ducted in the country have shown that the surface air
temperatures in India are going up at the rate of 0.4˚C
per hundred years, particularly during the post-monsoon
and winter season [15]. India is heavily dependent on the
monsoon to meet its agricultural and water needs, and
also for protecting and propagating its rich biodiversity.
Apart from monsoon rains, India uses perennial rivers,
which originate and depend on glacial melt-water in the
Hindukush and Himalayan ranges. Since the melting
season coincides with the summer monsoon season, any
intensification of the monsoon is likely to contribute to
flood disasters in the Himalayan catchment. Rising tem-
peratures will also contribute to the raising of snowline,
reducing the capacity of this natural reservoir, and in-
creasing the risk of flash floods during the wet season.
Increased temperatures will impact agricultural produc-
tion. A trend of sea level rise of 1 cm per decade has
been recorded along the Indian coast. Sea level rise due
to thermal expansion of sea water in the Indian Ocean is
expected to be about 25-040 cm by 2050 [16]. This could
inundate low lying areas, down coastal mars hes and wet-
lands, erode beaches, exacerbate flooding and increase
the salinity of rivers, bays and aquifers. Deltas will be
threatened by flooding, erosion and salt intrusion. Loss
of coastal mangroves will have an impact on fisheries.
The major delta area of the Ganga, Brahmaputra and
Indus rivers, which have large populations reliant on ri-
verine resources will be affected by changes in water
regimes, salt water intrusions and land loss. Increase in
temperatures will result in shifts of lower altitude tropi-
cal and subtropical forests to higher altitude temperate
forest regions, resulting in the extinction of some tem-
perate vegetation types. Increased dry spells could also
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Global Climate C hange and Emergi n g Environmental and Strategic Security Issues for South Asia
place dry and moist deciduous forests at increased risk
from forest fires. Climate change will make monsoons
unpredictable. As a result, rain-fed wheat cultivation in
South Asia will suffer in a big way.
5. Global Climate Change and Defense
Strategic Implication
The Military Advisory Board, a panel of retired U.S. ge-
nerals and admirals released a report entitled “National
Security and the Threat of Climate Change.” The pur-
pose of the Military Advisory Board’s study was to ex-
amine the national security consequences of climate
change. A dozen of the nation’s most respected retired
admirals and generals served as a Military Advisory Board
to study how climate change could affect our nation’s
security over the next 30 to 40 years—the timeframe for
developing new military capabilities [17]. The report
predicts that global warming will have security impli-
cations, in particular serving as a “threat multiplier” in
already volatile regions.
The major recommendations of the Military Advisory
Board are:
Projected climate change poses a serious threat to
America’s national security
Climate change acts as a threat multiplier for instabi-
lity in some of the most volatile regions of the world
Climate change, national security, and energy depen-
dence are a related set of global challenges
In November 2007, two Washington think tanks, the
established Center for Strategic and International Studies
and the newer Center for a New American Security, pub-
lished a report analyzing the worldwide security implica-
tions of three different global warming scenarios. Cli-
mate change will pose profound strategic challenges to
the United States in coming decades, raising the prospect
of military intervention to deal with the effects of vio lent
storms, drought, mass migration and pandemics, The
New York Times reported [18]. Citing military and intel-
ligence analysts, the newspaper said climate-induced cri-
ses could topple governments, feed terrorist movements
or destabilize entire regions. Analysts, experts at the Pen-
tagon and intelligence agencies for the first time are tak-
ing a serious look at the national security implications o f
climate change, the report said. Recent war games and
intelligence studies conclude that over the next 20 to 30
years, vulnerable regions, particularly sub-Saharan Af-
rica, the Middle East and South and So utheast Asia, will
face the prospect of food shortages, water crises and
catastrophic flooding dri ven by climate change that could
demand an US humanitarian relief or military response.
An exercise at the National Defense University last De-
cember explored the potential impact of a flood in Bang-
ladesh that sent hundreds of thousands of refugees
streaming into neighboring India, touching off religious
conflict, the spread of contagious diseases and vast da-
mage to infrastructure, according to The Times. A chang-
ing climate presents a range of challenges for the military,
the paper pointed out, because many of its critical instal-
lations are vulnerable to rising seas and storm surges.
Military planners are studying ways to protect the ma-
jor naval stations in Norfolk, Virginia, and San Diego,
California, from climate-induced rising seas and severe
storms. Another vulnerable installation is Diego Garcia,
an atoll in the Indian Ocean that serves as a logistics hub
for US and British forces and sits a few feet above sea
According to a report published in IPS, Washington
(by Jim Lobe) [19] on 5 November, 2008, Global climate
change, if left unaddressed, is likely to pose “as a great
or a greater foreign policy and national security cha-
llenge than any problem” the United States currently
faces, according to a major new report released here
Monday by two influential Washington think tanks. Un-
der a worst-case scenario, that nonetheless remains
“plausible” given the latest scientific estimates, climate
change’s impacts on global stability “would destabilize
virtually every aspect of modern life,” according to the
conclusions of a task force assembled by the Centre for
Strategic and International Studies and the Centre for a
New American Security (CNAS). The second IPCC re-
port coincided with the release of yet another study by a
panel of retired senior U.S. military officers that warned,
among other things, that sea-level rise and a dearth of
fresh water—particularly in the Middle-East, Africa, and
South and Southeast Asia—would “foster the conditions
for internal conflicts, extremism and movement toward
increased authoritarianism and radical ideologies.” The
expected decline in food production and fresh drinking
water, combined with greater possibilities for intra-state
and inter-state conflict, will drive more Africans and
South Asians to migrate further abroad, possibly result-
ing in a major surge in the number of immigrants to Eu-
rope, according to the report.
There is growing consensus that environmental deg-
radation can, and does, trigger, amplify or cause conflict
and instability, and a growing concern that environmen-
tally induced co nflict might increase. Today, security in-
stitutions are being called upon to protect access to envi-
ronmental resources in other countries as well as in the
global commons, and to provide support for humanita-
rian operations, many of which have significant environ-
mental roots. In the future, force may be used in response
to trans-boundary pollution, or to enforce international
environmental law. But security specialists recognize
that conflict can be a constructive force, signaling the
need for institutional change or capacity building. The
opyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Global Climate C hange and Emergi n g Environmental and Strategic Security Issues for South Asia1167
pressures placed on institutions by environmental degra-
dation and resource scarcity might be just such a signal.
Building sustainable peace between and within countries
requires the international community to tackle the root
causes of conflict. In terms of the environment, this in-
cludes managing our natural resources more effectively
and halting environmental degradation. In this context,
IISD’s focus is to provide practical recommendations to
decision-makers on how better environmental manage-
ment could reduce the risk of conflict [20].
6. Climate Security Index: A Measure of
Global Climate Disruption
Climate Security Index, a new report by the American
Security Project, links global climate change impacts and
energy insecurity to US national security, concluding
that these interrelated problems constitute a “clear and
present danger to the national security of the United
States.” The report says global climate change is proje-
cted to produce “insufficient water supplies, shifting
rainfall patterns, disruptions to agricu lture, hu man migra-
tions, more failing states, increased extremism, and even
resource wars,” all of which pose an urgent threat that
must be addressed in national security policy. The Index
addresses, inter alia, what are the human security issues
that must be addressed in the larger international policy
context. The American Security Project is a non-profit,
bipartisan public policy and research initiative to ed ucate
the American public about the changing nature of na-
tional security in th e 21st century [21]. Their board of di-
rectors is composed of high-ranking retired military of-
ficers, public servants including current and former US
Senators, and former government officials.
Climate Security Index represents a renewed effort to
sound the alarm based on current, authoritative know-
ledge. The projected global impacts of climate change
spell out a clear and present danger for the United States,
says the report: “Climate change refugees will increas-
ingly cross our own borders. In South Asia, the melting
of Himalayan glaciers jeopardizes fresh water supplies
for more than one billion human beings. The nonpartisan
think tank American Security Project’s Secure America
Future program recently released a new report entitled
Climate Security Index, detailing climate security threats
around the globe. The report looks at the numerous im-
pacts of climate change throughout the world, identif ying
key “hot spots” where impacts pose the greatest security
concerns, such as Central America, Sub-Saharan Africa,
and Southeast Asia. New climate conditions will drive
human beings to move in ever larger numbers, seeking
food, water, shelter and work. No region will be immune.
Climate refugees will increasingly cross our own borders.
The stress of changes in the environment will further
weaken marginal states. Failing states will incubate ex-
tremism. In South Asia, the melting of Himalayan gla-
ciers jeopardizes fresh water supplies for more than one
billion human beings.
7. UNFCCC Mandate to Mitigate Impact of
Climate Change
In 1988, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
was created by the United Nations Environment Pro-
gramme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organi-
zation (WMO) to assess the scientific knowledge on
global warming. The IPCC concluded in 1990 that there
was broad international consensus that climate change
was human-induced. That report led way to an interna-
tional conventio n for climate change, the United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC),
signed by over 150 countries at the Rio Earth Summit in
1992 [22]. The various recommendations emanated from
this Summit, inter alia, also led the way and made foun-
dation for evolving the concept of sustainable develop-
ment. One of the mandates of UPCCC is evolving miti-
gation measures to minimize the adverse impact of cli-
mate change [23]. Mitigation measures to reduce green-
house gas emissions have a certain cost. However, they
also constitute an economic benefit by reducing the im-
pacts of climate change, and the costs associated with
them. The resulting mitigation potential is substantial
and could offset the projected growth of global emissions
over the coming decades or reduce emissions below cur-
rent levels [23].
Mitigation measur es could contribute to stabilizing th e
concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by
2100 or later. To achieve low stabilization levels, strin-
gent mitigation efforts are needed in the coming decades.
This could reduce global GDP by up to a few percent.
Changes in lifestyle and behaviour that favor resource
conservation can contribute to climate change mitigation.
Mitigation measures can also have other benefits for so-
ciety, such as health cost savings resulting from reduced
air pollution. However, mitigation in one or group of
countries could lead to higher emissions elsewhere or
effects on the global economy. Mitigation potential for
different sectors is a function of carbon price) [24]. No
one sector or technology can address the entire mitiga-
tion challenge. All sectors, including buildings, industry,
energy production, agriculture, transport, forestry, and
waste management could contribute to the overall miti-
gation efforts, for instance through greater energy effi-
ciency. World-wide investments in mitigation technolo-
gies, as well as research into new energy sources, will b e
necessary to achieve stabilization. Delaying emission
reduction measures limits the opportunities to achieve
low stabilization levels and increases the risk of severe
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Global Climate C hange and Emergi n g Environmental and Strategic Security Issues for South Asia
cli- mate change impacts [25,26].
Climate Change and Addressing Food Security
as a Measure of Mitigation
These are the poorest regions in the world with high le-
vels of chronic under-nourishment, and are the ones which
contributed the least to the problem of environment de-
cay and climate change. But they will be the hardest hit.
The international community and the developed nations
have expressed concern towards them in a recent G8
summit declaration which states,” We underscore that
climate change severely affects developing coun tries and
is becoming a major threat to their ability to achieve in-
ternationally agreed development goals including the
MDGs.” The impacts of climate change on agriculture
and food security are manifold. This scenario predicts re-
gional disparities in food production and availability.
Moreover, with an increase in climate variability, another
dimension of climate change, the IPCC predicts that the
world will face increased frequency and severity of cy-
clones, floods, storms and droughts, causing fluctuations
in crop yields and local food supplies. These inconsis-
tencies will have serious effects on semi-arid areas, like
Sub-Saharan Africa and certain parts of South Asia [25,
26]. But there is a ray of hope.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the
UN predicts that the overall global food production is
likely to keep pace with population growth and the food
demand in the future. Thus, apart from taking mitigating
action to halt the climate change, the International Com-
munity faces the challenge of removing the regional dis-
parities in the availability of food across the globe. Cur-
rently, the UN and the developed actions respond to food
needs of populations in emergency situations after natu-
ral disasters or in conflict areas.
8. Global Initiatives for Energy Security &
Sustainable Development
Inter-country cooperation can play an important role in
addressing issues related to energy supply and demand
and the efficient distribution of energy resources through,
among others, connectivity and trade. While improving
energy security is primarily a domestic issue, tran s-boun-
dary energy cooperation could play an important com-
plementary role. Currently, most Governments are indi-
vidually seeking and taking measures to ensure a steady
supply of energy resources to sustain their economic
growth. In the era of globalization, a collective coopera-
tion framework could supplement national efforts and br-
ing mutual benefits. A cooperation framework could in-
clude a coordinated planning and development approach
for trade and exchange, which could lead to the integra-
tion of energy infrastructure aimed at facilitating the
supply of energy to final consumption destinations be-
yond national boundaries. It is heartening to note that
platforms for cooperation have already been initiated in
some sub regions, including South-East Asia, North-East
Asia, South-Asia and West and Central Asia. Least deve-
loped and landlocked developing countries in these sub
regions stand to benefit through active engagement in
their respective regions. Moreover, another initiative for
broad trans-Asian energy cooperation that ESCAP has
been pursuing following the sixty-second session of the
Commission could also benefit least developed and
landlocked developing countries through synergies and
linkages among various sub-regions [27].
The Organization for Economic Co—operation and
Development (OECD)/International Energy Agency (IEA),
and recent reports on World Energy Outlook 2004 [28]
project that over the next 30 years global primary energy
demand will grow by 1.7% per annum from 9.20 billion
tones to 15.30 billion tones of Oil Equivalent, and that
this demand will be met pr imarily by conventional fossil
energy such as oil, natural gas and coal, in the near term.
Energy from the renewable resources is also expected to
grow in the mid century term, but will remain in the
small percentages of the total energy mix in near term.
Based on a number of statistics it is also projected that
many communities across the globe (1.40 billion people
according to IEA) living at or below the poverty line will
remain without the access to modern energy systems
such as electricity, which an essential requ irement fo r so -
cial and economic development. The overall value of the
global carbon market was estimated at over $10 billion in
2005. The World Bank has been a pioneer in the carbon
market, mainly through the establishment of carbon pro-
curement funds to secure carbon credits on behalf of in-
vestors. The funds in the World Bank portfolio were not
solely intended to procure carbon cred its, but also to help
create demand and spur the global carbon market [29].
8.1. Addressing Climate Change and Sustainable
Development Issues
Sustainable development has become part of all climate
change policy discussions at the global level, particularly
due to adoption of Agenda 21 and the various Conven-
tions resulting from the UNCED [30]. The generally ac-
cepted and used definition as given by the Brundtland
Commission is “development that meets the needs of the
present without compromising th e ability of future gene-
rations to meet their own needs” [31]. Climate change
and other sustainable development policies are often but
not always synergistic. There is growing evidence that
decisions about macroeconomic policy, agricultural pol-
icy, multilateral development bank lending, insurance
practices, electricity market reform, energy security and
opyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Global Climate C hange and Emergi n g Environmental and Strategic Security Issues for South Asia1169
forest conservation. On the other hand, decisions about
improving rural access to modern energy sources for
example may not have much influence on global GHG
emissions. Climate change policies related to energy
efficiency and renewable energy are often economically
beneficial, improve energy security and reduce local
pollutant emissions. Other energy supply mitigation op-
tions can be designed to also achieve sustainable devel-
opment benefits such as avoided displacement of local
populations, job creation, and health benefits.
Sustainable development has become an integrating
concept embracing economic, social and environmental
issues [32]. Sustainable development does not preclude
the use of exhaustible natural resources but requires that
any use be appropriately offset. Three critical compo-
nents in promoting sustainable development are eco-
nomic growth, social equity and environmental sustain-
ability. Switching to more sustainable development paths
can make a major contribution to climate change mitig a-
tion, but implementation may require overcoming multi-
ple barriers. There is a growing understanding of the
possibilities to choose and implement mitigation options
in several sectors to create synergies and avoid conflicts
with other aspects of sustainable development. Making
development more sustainable by changing development
paths can make a major contribution to climate change
mitigation, but implementation may require resources to
overcome multiplebarriers. There is a growing under-
standing of the possibilities to choose and implement
mitigation policies in several sectors to realize synergies
and avoid conflicts with other dimensions of sustainable
development. Climate change is already a maj o r d r iver of
impoverishment and conflict around the world, but that
fact has not yet been given the urgent attention it de-
8.2. Sustainable Energy Development for
Asia-Pacific Region
The Asia-Pacific region, among the world’s most popu-
lous and diverse, includes many of the world’s commu-
nities that are most at risk from catastrophic events brought
about by climate change and other fossil-fuel consump-
tion related impacts. The region needs a coherent and
effective framework for sustainable development—
which inevitably has to mandate the rapid deployment of
renewable energy and energy efficiency policies and
practices. Along with growth, Asia’s energy consump-
tion has been rising steadily, and the need to reduce pov-
erty and meet the Millennium Development Goals means
that it will continue to rise. With most of its energy
coming from fossil fuels—a primary source of green-
house gas emissions or GHGs—Asia now accounts for
nearly one- qu art e r of the world’s GH G emissions.
The International Energy Agency [27] has estimated
that the region will require between $4 trillion and $5
trillion from now to 2030 for new energy infrastructure.
Most of these investments will be directed toward elec-
tricity, primarily coal-fired power plan ts. On this basis, it
is reported that the global energy-related carbon dioxide
emissions will surpass 40 billion tones in 2030, with
Asia contributing about 40% of total emissions.
The World Summit on Sustainable Development
(WSSD) took place from 26 August - 4 September 2002,
in Johannesburg, South Africa. The goal of WSSD was
to hold a 10-year review of the 1992 United Nations
Conference on Envi ro nment and Development (UNCE D)
to reinvigorate global commitment to sustainable develop-
ment [33]. The WSSD brought together more than
20,000 formally r egistered particip ants from 191 govern-
ments, 118 United Nations agencies and international
organizations, numerous non-governmental organiza-
tions, as well as representatives from the private sector,
civil society, academe and the scientific community. In
the context of Sustainable Development in the Asia and
Pacific region, the chapter on regional initiatives calls for
action in the following areas: capacity building for sus-
tainable development; poverty reduction; cleaner pro-
duction and sustainable energy; land management and
biodiversity conservation; protection and management of
and access to freshwater resources; oceans, coastal and
marine resources and sustainable development of small
island developing states; and atmosphere and climate
The World Council for Renewable Energy (WCRE)
[34] called for the urgent development and enactment of
such a framework. It is ready to assist governments and
intergovernmental org anization s in the energ y policy for-
mulation process as well as in the adoption of specific
sustainable energy strategies. Such strategies are to rein-
force existing sustainable development efforts, pursued
in the region by national, provincial and municipal go-
vernments, a number of aid and lending institution s and a
large number of non-governmental organizations. Most
present development programs are still far too reliant on
fossil-fuel or nuclear-based projects. Furthermore, regio-
nal development policy signals set by many leading
countries are frequently coloured by short-term resource
extraction and trade objectives with too little regard for
local and global sustainability. The local viability of the
poorest nations and indigenous communities remains se-
verely under-recognized. The WCRE Asia Pacific urges
the implementation of the recommendations of the World
Bank Extractive Industries Review final report “Striking
a Better Balance” as they relate to renewable energy,
specifically to the following: 1) assist governments to
adopt sustainable energy strategies that address the en-
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Global Climate C hange and Emergi n g Environmental and Strategic Security Issues for South Asia
ergy needs of the poor and minimize externalities such as
climate change; 2) internalize the cost of gr eenhouse gas
emissions into all World Bank Group (WBG) economic
decision-making; 3) increase investments in sustainable
energy resource development. This includes setting tar-
gets for increasing proportions of investment in renew-
able energy within the en ergy portfolio, increasing annu-
ally at 20 per cent to achieve a better balance with sup-
port for other projects; 4 ) phase out lending in fossil fuel
projects over time and 5) implement initiatives for tech-
nology transfer related to climate change and further
research into appropriate technology.
9. Conclusions
For a rapid economic development, both the developed
as well as the developing economy of the world are using
energy-intensive technologies, making extensive use of
fossil-fuels as feedstock. Over the years, this has caused
a huge build-up of Green House Gases (GHGs) causing
adverse impact on the env ironmental quality, human and
animal lives. Several other anthropogenic activities are
also the potent sources of pollution. In the process, the
emissions level is also rising phenomenally along with
the phenomena of Global warming; and this is also be-
coming quite alarming, affecting the environmental qua-
lity as also its security concerns globally. This paper has
brought out clearly the major impacts of global warming
and consequential climate change on the environmental
quality and overall security aspects—including commer-
cial, strategic and defense related security aspects for the
South-Asian region. The paper has also spelt out in some
length the future strategy linked to the question of energy
security as well as the environmental security through
the pathways of sustainable energy development for
achieving a balanced economic development for the
South Asian region. The significance of International
cooperation in the mitigation and adaptation actions to
offset emerging climate change impacts, with special re-
ference to Asia-Pacific and South Asian region, has also
been discussed in the paper. In sum, while there is an im-
perative for the South Asian Countries to accelerate their
process of economic growth for the region’s economic
prosperity in a globally co mpetitive manner, there is also
a need to focus on energy and environmental security
aspects of the region for a balanced and sustainable de-
[1] A. Shah, “Climate Change and Global Warming; Social,
Political, Economic and Environmental Issues That Af-
fect Us All,” Accessed on 25 December 2004.
[2] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),
“Climate Change, Third Assessment Report (Volume I),”
Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2001
[3] Greenhouse Effect effect
[4] Green House EffectThe Background Material.
[5] J. A. Church, P. L. Woodworth, T. Aarup and W. S. Wil-
son, “Understanding Sea-level Rise and Variability,”
Wiley-Blackwell, London, 2010, 428 Pages.
[6] C. K. Folland and T. R. Karl, “Observed Climate Vari-
ability and Change, In: Climate Change 2001, The Scien-
tific Basis, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2001.
[7] J. Hansen, et al., “Earth’s Energy Imbalance: Confirma-
tion and Implications,” Science, Vol. 308, 2005, p. 1431.
[8] A. Shah, “Climate Change & Global warming: Glo Cli
Ch-Res Art,” Climate Change and Global Warming
Global Issues, 2008.
[9] I. Douglas, “Climate Change, Flooding and Food Secu-
rity in South Asia, Food Security,” Springer, Netherlands,
[10] Union of Concerned Scientists: Citizens and Scientists for
Environmental Solutions, Solutions to Global Warming
in Asia: Early warning signs.
[11] J. Mehovic and J. Blum, “Global Warming and Melting
Glaciers in South Asia: Environmental, Economic, and
Political Implications,” SARID, 17 September 2004.
[12] R. Francisco, “Main Points from ADB’s Report on the
Economics of Climate Change in Southeast Asia, Manila,
Reuters,” 26 April 2009.
[13] A. Najam, “The environmental challenge to human secu-
rity in South Asia,” In: R. Thakur and O. Wiggen, Eds.,
South Asia in the World: Problem solving perspectives on
Security, Sustainable Development and Good Govern-
ance, United Nations University Press, New York, 2003
[14] S. Burgess, “India’s Emerging Security Strategy and
Defense Capabilities,” The Annual Meeting of the
American Political Science Association, Boston Marriott
Copley Place, Sheraton Boston & Hynes Convention
Center, Boston, Massachusetts, 28 August 2002, Ac-
cessed on 7 December 2009.
[15] Climate Change and its Impact of India,
[16] National Security and the Threat of Climate Change:
Military Advisory Board Findings, Military Advisory
Board, Wikipedia:
[17] A. France-Presse, “The New York Times reported on
‘Climate change that will pose profound strategic chal-
opyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Global Climate C hange and Emergi n g Environmental and Strategic Security Issues for South Asia
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
lenges to the United States in coming decades’,” Wash-
ington DC, 8 August 2009.
[18] J. Lobe, “Global Warming Is Biggest Security Threat,”
Washington DC, 5 November 2007 (IPS).
[19] Environment and Security Policy; IISD.
[20] R. Piltz and A. Jay, “Climate Science Watch,” 29 Sep-
tember 2009.
[21] Earth Summit: from Rio to Johannesburg, Rio Earth
Summit in 1992, Friends of the Earth 26-28 Underwood
Street, London N 1 7JQ.
[22] D. Pearce and G. Atkinson, “The Concept of Sustainable
Development: An Evaluation of Its Usefulness Ten
YEARS after Brundtland,” CSERGE Working Paper PA
[23] A. Garg, D. Ghosh and P. R. Shukla, “Energy Sector
Policies and Mitigation of GHG Emissions from India,”
In: M. Toman, Ed., Climate Change Economics and Pol-
icy: Indian Perspectives, Resources for the Future Publi-
cation, Washington DC, 2003.
[24] W. Chandler, R. Schaffer, Z. Dadi, P. R. Shukla, F.
Tudela, O. Davidson and S. Alpan-Atamar, “Climate
Change Mitigation in Developing Countries,” Report,
The Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Washington
DC, Bhagirath Jogdand, October 2002.
[25] Bhagirath Jogdand,
[26] Trans-Asian Energy Systems, “A UNESCAP Initiative:
Trans-Asian Energy Cooperation Initia t i ves of ESCAP,”
[27] IEA, “World Energy Investment Outlook: 2003 Insights,
OECD/IEA,” Paris, 2004.
[28] C. Feinstein, “Economic Development, Climate Change
& Energy Security: The World Bank’s Strategic Perspec-
tive,” Energy & Mining Sector, Board Discussion Paper
Series; Paper No. 3, September 2002.
[29] World Bank, “State and the Trends of Carbon Market,”
World Bank Institute/International Emissions Trading
Association, Washington DC, 2007.
[30] UNCED-1992, United Nations Development Agenda for
All Goals, Commitments and Strategies Agreed at the
United Nations World Conferences and Summits since
1990, Department of Economic and Social Affairs,
United Nations, New York, 2007.
[31] Brundtland Commission Report, “Report of the World
Commission on Environment and Development,” 1987.
[32] S. M. L’el’e, “Sustainable Development: A Critical Re-
view,” World Development, Vol. 19, No. 6, 1991, pp.
606-607. doi:10.1016/0305-750X(91)90197-P
[33] World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD),
“Development Imperatives,” 2002.
[34] World Council for Renewable Energy (WCRE-World
Bank), 2004.