This is the first in an ongoing series of blogs I’ll be doing about how climate change, and the work of 350.org, connect to other major movements and global issues that are surging. This kind of work isn’t new for us, and in fact, we often speak out and demonstrate solidarity, but not in a regular fashion. We see ourselves as a movement organization, and as a result, we are constantly observing connections between the work we do and how it connects with the work of partners.
As my friend Miya Yoshitani likes to say, climate change is a force multiplier. By creating harsher and harsher living conditions, a changing climate creates more uncertainty, more inequality, and more stress. Look at global conflict areas, from Western Africa to Syria to the migrant and refugee crisis almost everywhere, and there is always a link to resource scarcity driving people away from the places and people they love and the land they’ve depended on for decades.
We also believe, and it is our organizational theory of change, that we won’t see the necessary, ambitious action taken by governments, if there is not popular pressure from many corners. And if climate change is understood by global leaders as a fringe concern, unconnected to others, it will remain unaddressed, or addressed feebly.
It couldn’t be less of a fringe concern, because of this multiplier effect. So these blogs are an effort to really probe what these connections are, using concrete examples of important topics on the tip of the public’s tongue. We campaign in such a way so as to effect that narrative, and so we take many cues from what topics are live in the media. These aren’t the only important topics, but the public narrative is a crucial resource to make climate change a topic of relevance to everyone.
So for today’s topic, I wanted to probe the climate connection to the Iran nuclear deal. Not long ago, there was a very real threat of military action by the US government against Iran, and it was all I could think about. I was very afraid the US would agree to a sustained military commitment in Iran that could continue the cycle of violence in the region. So the fact that dogged and longstanding diplomatic efforts reached a strong outcome is a source for celebration, because it is a very crucial tool to avoiding military action. And the deal might not be successful.
Here’s an exploration of the connection to climate change as I see it.
First, from the perspective of the impacts of climate change, Iran is very vulnerable. The Iranian Department of Environment has already warned about the effect of rising temperature and decreased rainfall on agriculture and land use. The water shortages that result from drought create harsher living conditions for many people. As more and more people struggle to meet basic needs, climate change makes it harder to rely on the land and on historically reliable water resources.
The violence of war eclipses the hope for peace, and as the impacts of climate change worsen around the world, the potential for conflict gets much higher. Violent conflict is not inevitable, and avoiding it requires real work. The work to bring about this deal is an example of what is required to prevent conflict.
On a political level, effective diplomacy anywhere is a boon to the legitimacy of multilateral negotiations on climate change, the pinnacle of which will take place in Paris at the end of this year (our plan for Paris is outlined here). Coming to agreement, without violence, about transitioning our entire economy off of fossil fuels and towards renewables, is something we’ve worked towards since we began.
The Iran deal represents the result of significant diplomatic effort, and such efforts build on one another. They restore trust among countries in resolving conflict through cooperation, and these are the skills we need to build as the world rapidly changes around us.
That is how I understand the connections. I am sure there are even more!
Many thanks to the peace movement, and political powerhouses like Moveon.org, who are working hard to expose the risks of not agreeing to this deal. We refer you to them for further information and for means to take action! To learn more about 350.org’s work in the Arab World, check out this multimedia story.