Global Environmental Security Is Focus of SPIA Roundtable

Contact: Peter Fandel, (207) 581-1835

ORONO — Climate and environmental change, often blamed for rising sea levels, unprecedented droughts, floods, fires, deforestation and other phenomena that affect sustainability and natural resources, also threatens to intensify political and social conflict and lessen global security.

To address that, the University of Maine School of Policy and International Affairs is hosting a presentation and roundtable discussion on Oct. 25-26.  Roundtable panelists will discuss ways social and natural scientific knowledge can be used to better inform global environmental and social policies aimed at reducing the incidence and severity of environmentally related conflicts. Panelists’ diverse backgrounds will allow them to discuss critical issues from different strategic viewpoints, including use of development aid, diplomacy and military approaches to consider research and policy needs of the future.

The event begins Monday, Oct. 25 at 5 p.m. in the McIntire Room of the Buchanan Alumni House with a keynote by U.S. Navy Rear Admiral David W. Titley, oceanographer and navigator of the Navy, titled “National Security Implications of Climate Change: U.S. Navy’s Response.”

The U.S. Navy and the U.S. Department of Defense are concerned about how profound environmental changes may affect future military operations and conditions on land and sea. According to SPIA, one of the most immediate concerns for the Navy has been increasing international access to previously frozen regions in the Arctic due to rapid sea ice decline. How will that affect military policy and preparation for installations and future missions? Actions taken and planned in new Navy “roadmaps” will be discussed by Titley and others in the context of common U.S. inter-agency and international cooperation.

The concept of “environmental security” has emerged in recent years as a powerful way to think about the human dimensions of environmental degradation and climate change, according to Jim Settele, SPIA’s assistant director.

On Tuesday, Oct. 26, from 8:30-11:30 a.m. in Wells Conference Center, Geoffrey Dabelko, director of the Environmental Change and Security Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, will lead a panel of experts that includes Paul Mayewski, director and professor of the University of Maine Climate Change Institute and a world leader in glaciological research. The discussion is titled “Global Environmental Policy and the Science of Climate Change Interface.”

In spite of a significant amount of research in both the natural and social sciences, and the activism of a broad range of actors on the global environmental stage, policymakers have been slow in redefining and implementing policies that effectively address new environmental security issues. While many conflicts are nature-based, some, such as the politics of availability and control of water and other natural resources, are inflamed by human intervention.

In addition to Mayewski, roundtable discussions Oct. 26 will include Jay Gulledge, senior scientist and director, Science and Impacts Program, Pew Center on Global Climate Change, and Cynthia Brady, senior conflict advisor, USAID Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance in the Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation.

The University of Maine’s SPIA is presenting the roundtable in collaboration with the UMaine Climate Change Institute and the Environmental Change and Security Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Additional information about the program and SPIA can be found on the SPIA website (