In 2019, the UN found that Iraq is the fifth most vulnerable country in the world to climate change, indicating that temperatures will rise more quickly, weather patterns will become more erratic, and human migration will increase at rates far greater than other countries around the world. It is estimated that by 2050, temperatures will rise by 2 degrees Celsius, rainfalls will decrease by 9 percent, and severe weather events—including droughts, floods, and dust storms—will increase.

Solving the climate crisis in Iraq and ensuring protection and security for all Iraqi civilians will require both immediate and long-term strategic thinking and problem solving. In this report, ‘If I Leave.. I Cannot Breathe’: Climate Change and Civilian Protection in Iraq, the author found that it is more apparent than ever that in order to ensure stability and prevent the outbreak of future conflicts, the Iraqi government, security actors, and international partners must factor the threat multiplier of climate change into policy and practice. Communities must also be equipped with the tools and knowledge to advocate for themselves and co-design solutions in the face of heightened protection concerns as a result of climate change.

Iraqi society, which is already in a fragile post-conflict state recovering from the high intensity combat operations against the Islamic State (ISIS) in 2014-2017, stands to suffer from intensified outbreaks of violence, increased protection threats, and inter- and intra-communal tensions as a result of the multiplier effect of climate change. While much has been written about the first-order effects of climate change and environmental degradation, this paper examines potential conflict drivers and specific security vulnerabilities for civilians and their communities that may result from the immediate effects of climate change—most notably, changes in livelihoods and migration patterns. The secondary effects of climate change, linked to loss of livelihoods and migration, have the greatest potential to inflame inter and intra-communal tensions, deepen mistrust of government, and widen security gaps leading to protection concerns throughout Iraq.

Read and/or download the report here


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