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Climate change impacts are widely seen as a threat to international peace and security. Defence communities increasingly acknowledge that climate change acts as multiplier of existing conflicts and integrate climate concerns into their planning. Tom Middendorp, Chief of Defense of the Netherlands, explains how climate change can become a ground for violent conflict.

This interview was conducted at the Planetary Security Conference in The Hague, 5-6 December 2016.


"The last 30 years, we have every decade seen an increase of the average temperature on this planet, so it is happening as we speak. Now why is it important to me as a military? Because I think there is a nexus between climate change and security.
Climate change leads to droughts, leads to floodings, which causes shortages in food and water. Shortages in food and water in combination with the increasing population of the world, is a source of instability and can create migration flows, can be a ground for extremism and can be a ground for conflicts. And that makes this very important for me.

As a military I have learned the value of the saying in the Netherlands that “prevention is better than healing” because healing comes with a large price. I think addressing climate change can help us prevent conflict from happening.

We contribute to this in many ways. First of all, we try to be more aware of the environment in our operations. For instance, in Mali in our mission, we are implementing a water purification system that allows us to reuse 80% of the water that we use, thereby not drawing away scarce water from the local communities. But we also of course act when there are consequences of climate change, when there are floodings we deliver humanitarian assistance, when there is instability -caused also by climate change-, we address the instability and try to stabilize regions and make it safe again.”