The Red (Team) Analysis Weekly No139, 13 February 2014

Editorial – Storms and floods, harbinger of multifaceted changes: While the US knows a very cold winter, Western Europe is hit by the ninth storm since 17 December 2013, each bringing destruction and floods in its wake. This shows first, in a somehow novel way, that so-called “rich and developed”countries can be relentlessly hit by what is most probably a consequence of climate change. Here we are faced with storms and related floods, but other types of extreme weather events could also occur. Second, these storms start giving us an idea of how this vulnerability will most probably have multifaceted and mammoth impacts.

Actually, this issue is far from being completely new. We have already underlined the high likelihood to see this issue coming to the fore in “A road to hell” and have explored with a scenario in The Chronicles of Everstate some of its potential  impact (read 2018 – 2023 EVT – Complex catastrophes and following posts). Yet, monitoring undeniable indications (signals) that the problem is happening here and now is a novelty.

The polemic that the floods in the UK generated, as reported by the Huffington Post in “Foreign Aid Or Flood Relief?“, as well as the very heated debates we can read in the comments following the article, exemplifies what is also most probably at stake here: a potential redefinition of foreign policy, notably in its aid and development component, and a change of the normative setting presiding to the world order.

As more people are directly impacted in their everyday lives by climate change, they will expect their political authorities to ensure their security first. As the overall resources of the state will also be hit by extreme weather events (would it be only through a loss of economic activity, to say nothing of the net loss of wealth) and as public deficit are already straining public policies, cut will have to be made in budgets, and aid and development is a very likely target for this.

Actors benefiting and living from the old order, not only people receiving aid but also IGOs, NGOs, consultants, experts, specific businesses, etc. will most certainly fight not to see their livelihood dwindle, which means that we shall see heated ideological debates and polarization. Short of a miracle or real black swan event, maybe of a grey swan event (and making one happen would be a smart strategy for those living of aid and cooperation), it is most likely that they will lose this battle, as the mission of political authorities is to ensure the security of their citizens, not of other countries’ populations. For example, in democracies, people will vote for those who will offer solutions to their problems, not for those who promise to help far away people.

As a result, the humanitarian norms that have been embedded in the international system will most probably change, assuming they are not just abandoned, which in turn will have strong impact on the way to define and conduct international policy.

Meanwhile, this week is also rich with signals on lasting, spreading or renewed issues, such as tension in East Asia, doubts on global financial health and related economic issues, crisis in Ukraine, Greece, Bosnia, and now Venezuela, war in Syria, etc. This is almost “business as usual”, although the piling up of signals, week after week, shows escalation and global instability.

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Horizon scanning, risk, war, security, warning, signal