Climate Change as a Threat to Peace

Impacts on Cultural Heritage and Cultural Diversity

by Sabine von Schorlemer (Volume editor) Sylvia Maus (Volume editor)
©2015 Edited Collection 209 Pages
Open Access


This volume takes a fresh look at climate change as a threat to peace and its impacts on cultural heritage and cultural diversity. It proceeds under the assumption that the impacts of climate change on cultural heritage and cultural diversity may challenge sustainable global peace. As innovative feature, the interdisciplinary nexus between cultural heritage and peace is explicitly taken account of. Accordingly, corresponding threats on climate change and conflict on the one hand, and protection of cultural property and climate change on the other, are pulled together into one conceptual triangle. While the importance of the protection of cultural heritage in armed conflicts tends to become more and more recognized, the crucial role of cultural policy as a reconciliatory, proactive element of building and securing of sustainable peace has so far been largely underestimated. This volume brings together opinions of renowned experts in the fields of international law as well as natural sciences, engineering, humanities and social sciences. The focus lays on the legal and institutional challenges faced by national and international stakeholders, by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in particular. Moreover, it alludes to broader issues of mitigation, adaptation and resilience.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Reflections on Climate Change, Heritage and Peace
  • Interdiscipinary Approaches of Linking Climate Change with Politics and Law of Cultural Heritage
  • Man-made Climate Change: A Major Challenge for World Heritage Conservation
  • Climate Change as a Threat to International Peace – The Role of the UN Security Council
  • The United Nations Human Rights-Based Approach to Climate Change – Introducing a Human Dimension to International Climate Law
  • Impacts of Climate Change on Cultural Heritage and Cultural Diversity
  • Urban Resilience in Climate Change
  • The Impact of Climate Change on Slow Degradation of Monuments in Contrast to Extreme Events
  • Impact of Global Change on World Heritage and on Environmental Resources: The Need for an Integrated Management Approach
  • The Culture of Prevention: Heritage and Resilience
  • Lex Lata and De Lege Ferenda – Legal Challenges of Cultural Property Protection in the Context of Climate Change
  • What Consideration is Given to Climate and to Climate Change in the UNESCO Cultural Heritage and Property Conventions?
  • Protecting the Tangible, Safeguarding the Intangible: A Same Conventional Model for Different Needs
  • The Cultural Dimension of Climate Change: Some Remarks on the Interface between Cultural Heritage and Climate Change Law
  • World Cultural Heritage Sites and Climate Change: Management Issues
  • Concluding Remarks

List of Abbreviations

← 6 | 7 → CBD

Convention on Biological Diversity


Capacity Development and Governance


Clean Development Mechanism


Certified Emission Reduction


Conference of the Parties


Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage


Designing Safer Urban Spaces


Dose-Response Functions


Disaster Risk Reduction


European Court of Human Rights


Emission Reduction Unit


European Union


Food and Agriculture Organisation


Green House Gas


Hyogo Framework of Action for Disaster Risk Reduction


Historic Urban Landscapes


International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights


International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property


International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights


International Court of Justice


International Council for Monuments and Sites


International Center on Qanats and Historic Hydraulic Structures


Information and Communications Technology


International Legal Materials


Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change


International Union for Conservation of Nature


Integrated Water Resources Management


Low Elevation Coastal Zone


Man and the Biosphere Programme


Non-Governmental Organisation


Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights


Outstanding Universal Value

← 7 | 8 → OWHC

Organization of World Heritage Cities


Social Ecological System


Systems and Flux Analysis


Soil and Land Use Management


United Nations


United Nations Environment Programme


United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization


United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change


United Nations Human Rights Council


International Institute for the Unification of Private Law


United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction


United Nations Security Council


United Nations Treaty Series


United Nations University


United Nations University Institute for Integrated Management of Material Fluxes and of Resources


Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties


Vehicle Miles Travelled


World Heritage Convention


World Heritage List


Waste Management


Water Resources Management

← 8 | 9 → Sabine von Schorlemer & Sylvia Maus

Reflections on Climate Change,
Heritage and Peace

IClimate Change as a Threat to Peace

“Does Climate Change Kill People in Darfur?”1 – The question is striking, but the title of a 2011 journal article captures the quintessence of a vivid and topical debate over the impacts of man-made climate change on international peace and security. Influential voices such as the UN Secretary-General2 and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)3 have established a direct link between the armed conflict and climate change, notably for the conflict in Darfur.4 A commentary of the International Institute for Strategic Studies partly attributes the Arab Spring to climate change.5 And the well-known Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change purports that “climate-related shocks have sparked violent conflict in the past”.6

← 9 | 10 → However, the patterns of correlation and causation are far from being firmly established and both critics and proponents of a conception of “climate change as conflict catalyst” are still wrestling with the problem.7 While the link between scarcity of natural resources and conflict has long been established,8 the claim that the “potential for the changing climate to induce conflict or exacerbate existing instability (…) is now recognized”9 should be approached with caution. Critics argue that even though “there is unquestionably a general causal connection (...), at least in the sense that climate change is a ‘threat multiplier’”,10 it is difficult to establish a clear causal link between climate change and conflict.11 Indeed, in a long-term study ranging from 1990 to 2009, scholars examined climate-conflict relationships using data from over 16.000 violent events in East Africa (Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Tanzania, and ← 10 | 11 → Uganda)12 and concluded that climate factors have a “modest influence in terms of predictive power in a model with political, economic, and physical geographic predictors”.13 They continue that “our findings question the most simplistic climate–conflict narratives. The relationships between rainfall and temperature variability and violence are complex and warrant careful interpretation”.14

In 2007, the United Nations Security Council attended to the topic and held a high-level debate on climate change and international peace and security, addressing for the first time in this forum the potential impact of climate change on security.15 In a Statement by the President of the Security Council, the “Security Council expresses its concern that possible adverse effects of climate change may, in the long run, aggravate certain existing threats to international peace and security”.16 The 2009 Secretary-General Report Climate Change and its Possible Security Implications provides a noteworthy summary of issues relating to climate change and security and identifies five “channels through which climate change could affect security”:17

(a)Vulnerability: climate change threatens food security and human health, and increases human exposure to extreme events;

(b)Development: if climate change results in slowing down or reversing the development process, this will exacerbate vulnerability and could undermine the capacity of States to maintain stability;

(c)Coping and security: migration, competition over natural resources and other coping responses of households and communities faced with climate-related threats could increase the risk of domestic conflict as well as have international repercussions;

← 11 | 12 → (d)Statelessness: there are implications for rights, security, and sovereignty of the loss of statehood because of the disappearance of territory;

(e)International conflict: there may be implications for international cooperation from climate change’s impact on shared or undemarcated international resources.18

Equally, emerging threats which merit the attention of the international community are highlighted,19 namely loss of territory, statelessness and increased numbers of displaced persons,20 stress on shared international water resources,21 and disputes surrounding the opening of the Arctic region to resource exploitation and trade.22

Overall, the report echoes the prevalent perception that conceives of climate change as a threat multiplier, “exacerbating threats caused by persistent poverty, weak institutions for resource management and conflict resolution, fault lines ← 12 | 13 → and a history of mistrust between communities and nations, and inadequate access to information or resources”.23


ISBN (Hardcover)
Open Access
Publication date
2015 (March)
Klimawandel kulturelles Erbe kulturelle Vielfalt UNESCO
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 209 pp., 17 coloured fig., 4 b/w fig., 3 tables

Biographical notes

Sabine von Schorlemer (Volume editor) Sylvia Maus (Volume editor)

Sabine von Schorlemer, Saxon State Minister for Higher Education, Research and the Fine Arts, is chair holder of the UNESCO Chair in International Relations at the Faculty of Law at the Technische Universität Dresden. Sylvia Maus is researcher and scientific coordinator at the UNESCO Chair in International Relations, at the Technische Universität Dresden.


Title: Climate Change as a Threat to Peace
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212 pages