The Great Debate UK
Steven Heywood is a programme assistant, specialising in the human impacts of climate change at the Quaker United Nations Office in Geneva. The views expressed are his own.
“Countries have not tended to go to war over water,” Ed Davey, the UK’s Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change recently noted, “but I have a fear for the world that climate instability drives political instability.”
The idea that climate change will inevitably lead to an increase in violent conflict over scarce natural resources is an increasingly common position in public discourse, but is it necessarily true?
If any resource is susceptible to conflict, it is water. Water is vital for drinking, washing, agriculture and industry, and a large proportion of the world’s freshwater is shared between nations, with 214 major river systems shared by two or more states and 19 countries receiving more than half their water from outside their borders.