How Climate Change Affects Our Understanding of National Security

What is National Security? The answer to this question has evolved over time. For centuries, national security primarily meant protecting yourself from military hostility. Rulers were preoccupied negotiating a network of alliances and ensuring they had a sizeable, trained, and equipped army to cement their reign. With the spread of democratic ideals, National Security’s scope began to reflect the people’s priorities. The most famous example is the US Declaration of Independence, which proclaimed life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to be unalienable rights. 

Protecting the nation from wars remained the primary concern until recent times. While the size and scale of conventional wars between countries has declined, nations attempt to secure themselves from new threats, such as violence from non-state actors, and cyber attacks. Ensuring economic resilience is increasingly considered a matter of national security, for if the economy collapses, the country collapses. Venezuela is a recent example whose people are suffering because the government failed to diversify and develop its economy, which was heavily dependent on oil and the public sector.

A resilient economy is one that is capable of adapting to shocks. It can bounce back from negative external events. Another concept that has caught flame in recent times is ‘future-proofing’ an economy from the anticipated increase in AI-enabled complex automation and climate-change fueled volatility.

Climate Change Is A National Security Threat

As American hurricanes continue to make global headlines, it is increasingly clear that climate change is a major threat. Symptoms of climate change, such as rising sea levels, droughts, shifting weather patterns, and extreme weather events impact global agriculture, trade, defense, and political stability. According to NATO, climate change is the ultimate “threat multiplier” - meaning that it can exacerbate political instability in the world’s most unstable regions.

As a result of climate change, governments around the world are increasingly prioritizing food security. Affordability, resource utilization, quality, safety, and stability are a few parameters to judge how food secure a country is. Bloomberg reported that worldwide, food security fell in 2017 for the first time in five years, due to increases in the number of refugees, weather disasters, and a decline in global political stability.

How Food Secure Is The UAE?

While food from around the world fill the shelves of well-stocked shopping centers in the UAE, their supply can be disrupted. To safeguard against any shocks, the UAE and other Arab nations have been investing in agricultural land around the world, but this still leaves us vulnerable to changes in regulations, and agricultural and political stability of source countries.

Global indicators present a mixed picture. According to Bloomberg’s Food Security index, Ireland is the most food secure nation in 2017. It ranked the UAE (41) lower than regional Arab neighbors - Kuwait (30), Oman (32), Saudi Arabia (36), and Bahrain (40). The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Food Sustainability Index gave the UAE an overall ranking of 22, the highest ranking of any Arab nation. The difference in ranking is because these two indices measure different parameters and weigh them accordingly. The Food Security Index measures the four parameters below.

 Source: Bloomberg

Source: Bloomberg

The Food Sustainability Index measures Food Loss and Waste, Sustainable Agriculture, and Nutritional Challenges. The UAE’s high overall rank is primarily due to its lack of Nutritional Challenges, but it scored poorly in the other two metrics. Here is the breakdown of UAE’s Sustainable Agriculture score.

 Source: The Economist

Source: The Economist

 

 How Can The UAE Increase Food Security?

Over the last few decades, the UAE has proved that it dares to dream big and is capable of achieving that which it envisions. Sustainability is an integral aspect of various government initiatives and strategic plans (e.g. Expo 2020, Abu Dhabi vision 2021). The government is steering the country on a path to sustainable development, making progress in areas of energy and mobility.  

Various government initiatives seek to improve agricultural sustainability. For example, the Abu Dhabi Farmers Services Centre, under the leadership of the Khalifa Fund, runs the Ziraai program, which helps mitigate the financial burden of transitioning to sustainable agricultural practices. The Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week attracts global minds to showcase and envision how to increase sustainability. The UAE also hosts the Global Forum for Innovation in Agriculture, which was held in February 2018.

Everyone contributes to UAE’s level of food security. In addition to the Government, the following stakeholders have a role to play: farmers, food distributors, universities, fitness professionals, nutritionists, restaurants, super markets, media, and consumers.

Consumers need to be informed about the importance and benefits of buying local food. This cannot be achieved without concerted efforts by supermarkets, restaurants, universities, and the media. With a booming fitness industry, local fitness professionals have the ability to affect consumer behavior (consumers are more likely to consult their personal trainer than a nutritionist for dietary advice).

We’re Optimistic

 Innovation in global technology is poised to transform the agriculture industry. Hydroponics in controlled-environments are producing hyper-yield of fresh, tasty local food that is non-GMO and pesticide-free, using one percent of the water compared to traditional agriculture. In the near future, agriculture will be sustainable and predictable.  

The UAE has already taken steps in the right direction. While there’s a long way to go, we at Madar Farms are encouraged by the UAE’s vision and measured steps towards progress. The future looks bright for UAE and the region.