Climate security

Met Office Conversations will debate global issues.

The potential for climate change to have an impact on international security is well recognised. This roundtable event explored how climate science can help inform security planning and policy

The past couple of years have seen unprecedented extreme environmental events - from droughts in Russia, to floods in Pakistan and Australia - all of which have highlighted the influence of climate on world affairs. The links between climate change and global security are complex and interdisciplinary.

This debate was opened by Lord Malloch Brown and involved discussion with thirteen top-level policymakers from across Government and experts from the Met Office.

Key issues and outcomes

  • How is climate change perceived as a threat for the UK?
  • What have politicians done to encourage action on climate change to date?
  • How well is climate change understood in strategic planning and policymaking?
  • How can science and policymaking join-up more effectively?
  • How can climate change move up the political agenda?
  • What else can be done to inform adaptation policy, here and internationally?

How is climate change perceived as a threat for the UK?

Whilst the event opened with recognition that climate change is a big issue for the UK, it was noted that climate change was not taken seriously enough by politicians, policymakers and the public. It was identified that the Met Office can do a lot to restore the credibility, objectivity and authority of climate science as a highly regarded, national and international organisation.

What have politicians done to encourage action on climate change to date?

For politicians, climate change is not seen as a problem that needs immediate action compared other problems such as crime, health and the economy. It was concluded that the political implications of the science shouldn't be an excuse to scare scientists away from engagement. The relevance of climate change for the UK response needs to be more clearly articulated by scientists to help move it up the political agenda.

How well is climate change understood in strategic planning and policymaking?

Whilst the risks of climate change are well understood, some of the scientific facts are challenging to translate due to the terminology used. For example 'uncertainty' has different meanings to climate scientists, policymakers and the public. It was decided that the climate scientists should work hard to communicate climate science clearly and unambiguously, with climate projections tailored to the issues being addressed.

How can science and policymaking join-up more effectively?

Interdisciplinary coordination is needed amongst experts in social science, economics and global security. Using a common language, experts should help to formulate joined-up and meaningful response to the effects of climate change on UK security.

How can climate change move up the political agenda?

The Met Office needs to equip politicians with a greater understanding of climate change issues and the different levels of detail needed for different audiences, giving them confidence in the evidence to deliver a compelling message.

What else can be done to inform adaptation policy, here and internationally?

The Met Office needs to translate its climate science into meaningful impacts and involve a wide range of players in the discussion.

More information

Download a detailed summary of the roundtable here:

Global security roundtable summary Climate security roundtable summary (PDF, 434 kB)

Last updated: 24 January 2013