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'Age of Consequences' Explores Collaborative Solutions to Climate Change

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Climate change as an accelerant of instability was the leitmotif of a recent Josef Korbel School screening of "The Age of Consequences," a documentary tackling the confluence of climate change, globalization, and intra- and inter-state conflict.

Korbel alumnus General George W. Casey Jr., (Ret.) (MA '80), former Chief of the Staff of the U.S. Army and Commander of the Multi-National Force in Iraq, and Korbel Associate Professor Cullen Hendrix, director of the Environment, Food and Conflict (ENFOCO) Lab and an expert on the intersection of the environment, civil conflict and food security, held a brief discussion and question-and-answer session after the screening in Maglione Hall.

The 90-minute documentary focused on recent international occurrences such as the Arab Spring, the European refugee crisis and unrest in Africa and how climate change has initiated or exacerbated these situations of instability. The film's point is reinforced through testimony from researchers, military veterans (including General Casey) and civilian and government researchers.

The film's speakers cited many case studies and examples such as the Syrian civil war, which many agree was perpetuated by climate change. Severe drought in the winter of 2006-07 caused nearly 1.5 million Syrians to relocate to the country's larger cities, further straining social systems.

"I do believe that climate change is a strategic risk to the country because climate change is an accelerant to instability," said Casey. "I believe we are in the early years of a long-term ideological struggle against Islamic extremism and instability is not our friend."

"Our students need grounding in both traditional security studies but also in emerging issues, like climate change, that pose significant threats and opportunities for both the United States and the international community," notes Professor Cullen Hendrix. 

Though the nexus of climate change, energy and national security is a new area in security studies, the Josef Korbel School is well poised to help students understand this emerging field. Offering courses on Environmental Security, Food Security, and the Political Economy of the Resource Curse, Professor Hendrix sees this emerging issue as one of the defining security challenges of the 21st century.

Professor Robert Uttaro, who helped to organize the film screening, said, "Students at Korbel are very much aware of the risks posed by climate change. Undergraduate students overwhelmingly agree with the statement that climate change will affect them personally." In Professor Uttaro's Global Environmental Politics class, students explore both the role politics plays in climate change and how people can respond to the climate change challenge.