International responses to climate change impacts on human security

Climate change is a global issue. Climate stressors will increasingly bring about extreme weather events such as heat waves and storms, causing economic loss and casualties across borders, and may act as risk multipliers for violent conflict by exacerbating already existing vulnerabilities such as weak institutions and water scarcity. Such cross-border climate risks for human security are increasingly dealt with by international organizations such as the European Union (EU), United Nations (UN) Environment, and the UN Security Council.

In a recent survey of the field in WIREs Climate Change, we identify an emerging research agenda in environmental social science on international responses to the climate change challenge. Drawing together research from several bodies of literature spanning international relations and sustainability science, we show that this young field of research has significantly enhanced our understanding of how and why international organizations address the adverse effects of climate change on human security. Yet we still know little about the conditions under which IGOs respond to climate security challenges and when they do so effectively.

We argue that ‘climate security’ should be understood as the condition where people, communities, and states have the capacity to manage stresses emerging from climate change and variability. This broad definition directs attention to adaptive capacity and resilience building and away from states as sole entities of analysis. It emphasizes the need of humans and societies to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change. This starting point opens up for a research agenda on the adverse effects of climate change on human security that develops theory to better understand institutional change and cooperation in tackling climate change, and the effectiveness of international organizations in doing so.

This research agenda is outlined in detail in WIREs Climate Change and summarized for policymakers and practitioners in this SIPRI Fact Sheet. It is financially supported by Mistra GEOPOLTICS (

Dellmuth LM, Gustafsson M-T, Bremberg N, Mobjörk M (2018) Intergovernmental Organizations and Climate Security: Advancing the Research Agenda. WIREs Clim Change 9(1), e496. doi: 10.1002/wcc.496.

Dellmuth LM, Gustafsson M-T, Bremberg N, Mobjörk M (2018) Intergovernmental Organizations and Global Climate Security Challenges: Implications for Academic Research and Policymaking. SIPRI Fact Sheet December 2017.

Authors: Lisa Maria Dellmuth, Associate Professor of International Relations at Stockholm University, Maria-Therese Gustafsson, PhD, Niklas Bremberg, PhD, and Malin Mobjörk, PhD.

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