23 February 2021

Ecological degradation as an underappreciated security threat

A new report from the Council on Strategic Risks highlights the risk that ecological disruption poses to both national and international security. The previous decades have seen unprecedented human interference in ecosystems in ways that have transformed the biosphere to resting at a new baseline rate. Some ecologists have gone as far as to call it a “biological annihilation”. This has resulted in a degradation in ecosystem services – the benefits that are conferred upon humanity by the ecosystem. These range from food and water to pollination and energy provision.

In turn, this degradation has serious security implications. For example, zoonotic spillover, the risk of which is heightened by human encroachment upon nature, increases the risk of pandemics. More conventional security risks are posed by the negative effect that ecological degradation has upon forestry and wildlife stocks as well as the concomitant food and water shortages. The security risks associated with these issues are already well documented

The report concludes with a number of policy recommendations:

  1. Governments must fund programs that promote capacity building, build water and food security, strengthen international conservation and combat environmental crime. This must be done hand in hand with alliance building and work through international organisations;
  2. Scientific and technological expertise must be central to the actions of diplomatic, intelligence and defence communities if the issue is to be understood and addressed properly;
  3. National security doctrines must be updated to address the evolving threats created by ecological degradation.


Read The full report HERE.

Photo credit: Vitor Esteves/Flickr