By Elsa Barron
On September 30th, the Center for Climate and Security (CCS) hosted a public roundtable discussion on “The Security Implications of the Pakistan Floods.” Panelists Ameera Adil, Faraz Haider, Andrea Rezzonico, and Jumaina Siddiqui discussed the ongoing flooding crisis in a discussion moderated by CCS Director Erin Sikorsky. The conversation first scoped the intersecting climate and security risks in Pakistan before exploring solutions to bolster climate justice, good governance, and community resilience.
The picture of current and future climate security challenges in Pakistan is grim. Ameera Adil pointed to the long-term impacts of the flooding, noting it will take months for the floodwaters to recede in about one-tenth of the country, leaving communities stranded and agricultural land inaccessible. She argued that one of the most concerning emerging security risks is disease, especially as the widespread flooding fuels a growing mosquito population carrying dengue fever and malaria. Jumaina Siddiqui explained that while no country could fully prepare for the level of devastation Pakistan is now facing, the Pakistani government’s failure to learn from previous flood events combined with a lack of effective coordination with provincial governments exacerbated the impacts of the crisis on local communities.
Faraz Haider outlined the mechanism by which crises such as this create additional pockets of vulnerability for national security. As the Pakistani military is increasingly deployed for emergency and medical response, it decreases its operational readiness to respond to new and emerging threats. Zooming out to a regional view, Andrea Rezzonico pointed out that three contentious neighbors– Pakistan, China, and India– all have nuclear capabilities. As compounding internal stresses grow, the risks of transnational instability and potential catastrophic miscalculation become more acute.
Adil highlighted the importance of interpreting climate change as a complex, rather than a singular issue. For communities on the ground, the climate crisis is experienced as a health crisis, an economic crisis, an education crisis, a humanitarian crisis, and more. She explained that addressing it as such can help bridge the gap between local community needs and government action. In order to do so, according to Haider, it is important to develop robust stakeholder engagement and build interdisciplinary capacity within the government. Siddiqui identified opportunities for the United States to help improve education and training for future Pakistani leaders through fellowship programs such as the Fulbright scholarship, which could specifically prioritize disciplines related to climate science, disaster management, or urban planning.
It is also important to shift the risk perception outside of Pakistan, according to Rezzonico. She explained that the United States and others need to undergo a deep analysis of the interactions between climate change and other stressors, leveraging tools such as forecasting to predict the way that multiple risks interweave globally.
The full webinar recording can be found here.
For related reading, see the CCS Briefer, “The Security Implications of the Pakistan Floods”