I’ve been invited to speak today at the Closing Ceremony of ILYMUN, Lyon’s Model United Nations conference. It’s been some time since I’ve spoken to a large group about political matters, and it is a big change from the marketing work that takes up most of my time these days at DOZ. Still, I’m looking forward to putting a few ideas out there and challenging a few ideas about the security issues that face Europe, the West, and the world in the years ahead.
The theme of ILYMUN this year is climate change and, in broad terms, I’m not all that interested in climate change as a subject. I understand the concept, of course, and I’ve read the science, the public policy op-eds, weighed responses by the left and the right to the challenges of climate, and continue to keep an eye on the various practical impacts of the policies that the government here in France (and, to a lesser extent, in Australia and the US) have put in place to ‘fight’ climate change. But as a topic, it’s fair to say it’s not something that inspires a lot of passion in me.
Security, on the other hand, was always a preferred subject of mine in international relations, and it is where my speech on climate change will focus.
Typically, when it comes to climate change and security, the focus tends to be on two areas: human security, and resource security. Again, neither of these are real passions of mine. Blame it on my Cold War upbringing but I have a preference for great power politics and leading state security over the security of individuals, small states, island nations, and food and water security.
And so my speech today will be about one aspect of climate change that could get real interesting real fast.
I start with the assumption that climate change will melt Arctic ice, open up the Arctic Ocean for trade, and allow for shipping to pass north of Russia in all seasons. Of course, this assumes that climate change is a real problem, that the ice will actually melt year round, and that it will be safe for shipping to pass through the previously ice-heavy regions north of Russia. None of these assumptions will necessarily prove accurate, but it is a worst case scenario for people who fear climate change so why not start there?
My point of departure, then, suggests a change in the ocean trade flows for the first time in centuries, even millennia, and asks the question: how will this impact security?
What will happen when the state with the most influence over global trade routes between Asia and Europe, Europe and the US, and even Asia and the US is Russia and not the US? How will Russia extend its influence in a world where most of the world’s cargo is passing close to its borders? What will happen in the Middle East when trade stops flowing through Suez? And what trade-offs will be made by Europe and the US towards Russia in the face of these changing trade flows?
I think it’ll make for an interesting thought exercise, spark some interesting debates, and make for a fun and engaging speech.