Volume 30

The Warming War: How Climate Change is Creating Threats to International Peace and Security

by Dr. Kirsten Davies and Thomas Riddell

The Cold War moved slowly over a period of forty-five years of indirect conflicts. Since this time, the planet has experienced metaphoric global wars, such as the War on Terror and the War on Drugs. This Article coins the term and claims that we are now in the era of the Warming War as the impacts of green-house emissions accelerate climate change, insidiously threatening the security of human life on earth. To date, this threat has been approached through diplomacy and negotiation as climate science continues to affirm the dangers of climate change and warns of its catastrophic impacts in the absence of urgent action. These political processes are too slow, particularly for some states, such as low-lying coastal islands, which may cease to exist in the near future. This Article discusses a potential legal basis for the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to declare climate change as a threat to international peace and security, and for states to seek reparations through the International Court of Justice. Such actions have the potential to establish the Warming War as more than a metaphor. This Article investigates whether developing countries and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which find their territorial integrity and sovereignty directly challenged, could enlist international law’s ever-evolving definition of a ‘threat’ to declare the impacts of climate change as a threat to their peace, security, and sovereignty. In doing so, it could then be interpreted as breaching international laws prohibiting acts of aggression and extraterritoriality. Approaching climate change as a national and international security issue promises to create new opportunities for immediate and much needed action to limit the emissions of greenhouse gases and support the plight of vulnerable nations.

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