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Environmental Security News This Week

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Congressional Hearing on the National Security Implications of Climate Change

On June 5, the House Intelligence Committee held an open hearing on the national security implications of climate change. Three experts from the U.S. Intelligence Community highlighted the multiple threats associated with climate change, illustrating how the phenomenon exacerbates social, economic, and political risks. During the hearing, these experts spoke openly about climate change despite the charged political atmosphere surrounding the issue. Rod Schoonover, a Senior Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the State Department, stated during his testimony that “climate change will have wide-ranging implications for U.S. national security over the next 20 years,” linking climate change to global humanitarian crises, military infrastructure security, and geopolitical tensions. The security issues Mr. Schoonover brings to light are just some of the many concerns located at the intersection between environment and security. The two other experts, Peter Kiemel (National Intelligence Council) and Jeffrey Ringhausen (Office of Naval Intelligence) emphasized food and water insecurity’s relationship to social unrest and Russia’s maritime adaptations to climate change in the warming Arctic in their respective testimonies.

Transshipment of Fish Threatens Food Security and Livelihoods in Ghana

A new report by Hen Mpoano and the Environmental Justice Foundation found that “saiko”—the illegal transshipment of fish from industrial trawlers to local canoes—costs Ghana millions in government revenue. An estimated 100,000 tons of fish were landed through saiko in 2017, flooding the market with cheap fish as artisanal fishers’ incomes plummet. Considering that 90 percent of Ghana’s industrial fleet has been linked to Chinese ownership, it is likely that many industrial trawlers engaging in saiko are foreign-owned. Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing like saiko has been an enduring problem in Ghana. Different forms of illegal fishing drive one another: As fisheries become increasingly depleted due to saiko, local fishermen are turning to desperate practices such as using light, dynamite, and chemicals like DDT to make fish easier to catch. These practices reduce the fish stocks further and endanger consumers’ health. While the government has passed four laws regulating fishing in Ghana to date, the enforcement of those laws is weak, which local fishermen argue is due to a lack of transparency on the part of the policymakers. The more than 200 coastal towns in Ghana that rely on fishing as their main source of income are suffering the most as local fisheries continue to be decimated by illegal practices like saiko, threatening Ghanaians’ economic and food security.

Drought in the Horn of Africa    

The food security of two million people is threatened following a season of lower-than-average rainfall in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia as widespread droughts emerge this summer, the UN warned. In response to the humanitarian crisis, the UN has pledged $45 million to countries in the region. Droughts are occurring more frequently across the Horn of Africa--the region is still recovering from a drought and pre-famine two years ago that struck Somalia particularly hard. As one UN humanitarian official stated: “There is not really any doubt in my mind that these more frequent droughts are related to global warming and climate change.” The increasing frequency and intensity of droughts pose economic and political security challenges for an already unstable region. In Somalia, recurrent droughts and long-term trends toward desertification exacerbate conflicts between clans and help drive up al-Shabaab membership, according to recent research. Growing climate-related displacement also contributes to instability as people leave their homes in search of food, water, and employment in urban areas. Across the country, security and environmental issues compound one another: People affected by the conflict in Somalia are disproportionately impacted by the drought, according to the UNHCR. The crisis in the Horn of Africa is just one of the many severe droughts sweeping across eastern and southern Africa, leaving 45 million food insecure.

In Case You Missed It

Environmental Security Program Director Sally Yozell speaks on IUU Fishing at Capitol Hill Ocean Week

On June 4, Senior Fellow and Program Director Sally Yozell participated in a panel on IUU fishing at Capitol Hill Ocean Week. Emphasizing transparency and traceability, Ms. Yozell drew on the Stimson team’s fieldwork experiences to point to how distant water fishing (DWF) fleets evade traceability measures, negatively impacting local communities who suffer the most from IUU fishing. She concluded her remarks by pointing out that transparency and traceability measures are just the “first step” and should be “paired with capacity building to implement laws, such as the Port States Measures agreement… so we can more effectively deter IUU fishing activities and their impacts on economic, food, and national security.”

Stimson Studies Coastal Vulnerabilities in the Caribbean

This month, a team of Stimson researchers visited Castries, Saint Lucia and Kingston, Jamaica to learn more about the risks these coastal cities face as sea levels rise and extreme weather events become more common. Fieldwork in the Caribbean is helping the team to develop the Climate and Ocean Risk Vulnerability Index (CORVI), which measures the vulnerability of coastal communities to different risks as populations in low-lying areas struggle to protect themselves against new climate realities. Read more about the project here

Maritime SAFE Act added to MARAD Reauthorization Bill

The Senate Commerce Committee added legislation to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing in its draft bill reauthorizing the Maritime Administration (MARAD). The legislation, known as the Maritime SAFE Act, provides a framework for the U.S. government to improve interagency coordination and increase enforcement in the fight against IUU fishing, which the bill identifies as a national security threat to the United States. 

International Day for the Fight against IUU Fishing

June 5 was the International Day for the Fight against IUU Fishing. In recognition of the day, UN agencies FAO, IOM, and ILO issued a joint statement urging member states to adopt and ratify the Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (PSMA). Look back at our 2018 report, Casting a Wider Net: Exploring the Security Implications of Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing, to understand some of the threats IUU fishing poses to the ecological, economic, and food security of coastal communities. 

World Oceans Month Further Reading…

A Guardian reporter accompanying a Greenpeace expedition ponders the destruction of the Arctic as we know it as temperature and acidity levels rise. Photos of the expedition document fracturing ice in a rapidly changing Arctic. Not pictured, however, are the governance challenges that arise as the melting ice opens up new opportunities for global shipping and natural resource extraction.

Gender equality has a vital role to play

Gender equality has a vital role to play in preserving our oceans, the Atlantic Council argues. In one women’s development project in Odisha, India, women came up with innovative solutions like mangrove nurseries and floating gardens to protect their coastal communities against environmental risks like sea-level rise, cyclones, and increasing salinity.