NATO, climate change and security. The Arctic missing in Madrid Strategic Concept 2022

Literature Review, 2023

14 Pages, Grade: 16



In the 21st century climate and security are two intertwined concepts, as it is not possible to present them separately when there is awareness regarding the transnationalism of the impacts and effects of climate change as well as the implications it has in traditional and non-traditional securities. Those two situations are even more relevant in the Arctic region that has been affected since last century by Anthropocene activities and has its ups and downs from world´s attention.

Matching climate, security and Arctic, it is considered that the Green Politics Theory frames this paper aside the securitization of the Copenhagen School allowing to confirm the presence of the Arctic region recurring to the qualitative methodology by analysing NATO´s official documents. The Alliance is always in a process of adaptation to a quick changing world. This time it needs to assimilate that climate change is a threat with security matters at different levels, armed forces included, and that the Arctic region shall be in the lens of attention due to rising competition and conflict triggered also by Russia and China.

NATO, climate change and security1:

the Arctic missing in Madrid Strategic Concept 2022

Climate change and security are two topics that are advancing in importance and relevance in International Relations studies in the 21st century. Anthropocene activities are confirmed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2014 AR52as the main factor for what we are witnessing in the first quarter of this century. Ecosystems, of which humans are part of, are being destroyed around the world downgrading human living conditions, rising ocean waters and leading to scarcity of resources. In what concerns the Arctic region, it is the first place to suffer from those changes, being considered the bell for the rest of the world. The Arctic is warming four times faster3than the rest of the world and this proven scientific fact challenges security and how it is perceived and understood nowadays. With climate change comes scarcity of resources and competition in a region that has been an example of cooperation and peace as expressed and whished by Gorbachev in 1987 in Murmansk4. The Arctic region is back, and tensions and conflicts too. The security of people, indigenous and non-indigenous, is central. This brings something new to security, labelled as non-traditional security.

In the topic of climate change, the Alliance expects “to take the lead in understanding and adapting to the impact of climate change on security” as mentioned in the reportNATO and Climate Change: A Climatized Perspective on Security(Rico, 2022, p.1). Shall it be remembered that climate change is considered a threat by the United Nations since 2009 (A/64/350, 2009, p. 6)5. Over the 70 years of existence, the Washington Treaty 1949, has been challenged to adapt to new contexts and threats. Though, it seems that the NATO, that came back to life and got out of the “brain-death” (using Emmanuel Macron´s expression in 20196) state with the War in Ukraine that started in 24 February 2022, is still pretty much in sight of traditional security.

After the Second World War, the Washington Treaty 1949 is signed by twelve countries (Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States) known as North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) with the goal of defending its members against the Soviet Union7. A security community, in the lens of Karl Deutsch, created by allies that seemed to have the same values and committed to keep and maintain democracy and the rule of law; what would allow to work in a collective way for defence and security through dialogue and cooperation with a specific objective: to live in peace. The world has been changing since its inception, compelling the organisation to adapt and review constantly its strategies and actions. This fact is considered as the legacy, success and longevity of the Alliance (NATO 2030, 2020, p. 7). As such, the organisation is still the unique and essential transatlantic forum for consultations on issues such as territorial integrity, political independence and security of its members. A relevant note here is that climate change does not care about territory and borders. Only by looking at it as a security issue can actions be taken and the regions more affected, as the Arctic, will be a priority.

In order to better analyse the presence of the Arctic region in the Madrid Strategic Concept 2022 and NATO´s adaptation to climate change, it makes sense to frame this paper within the Green Political Theory which has been evolving since the 1960s. This theory can also be aligned with the Copenhagen school (1985). In that sense, the author John Barry indicates in his chapter, entitled “Green political theory”, (2014) three moments, or waves, in the evolution of the term green political theory: i) the first wave begins in the 1990´s by identifying “ecologism” as an ideology and green political theory as a “distinctive approach”; ii) the second one is the period of the development of other schools of thought (such as feminism, liberalism, critical theory) expanded debates between those schools and green political theory. It is during this wave that Green theory is recognized within International Relations with the transnationalism question of problems caused by climate change, as mentioned by Robyn Eckersley (Ari and Gokpinar, 2019, p. 166); iii) the “third generation” of green theory is the more recent generation, which interdisciplinary is integrated with practical and empirical research of a “range of disciplines and knowledge outside politics, political science and political theory” (Barry, 2014, p. 4; idem). Scholars have been clarifying the difference between green politics - who consider that the structure can be challenged - and environmentalists – “who accept the framework and pursue the solution within the structures” (Paterson cited by Ari and Gokpinar, 2019, p. 167). Consequently, the concept of security, which is also recent in International Relations, changes its focus, placing the people at the center, as objects (human security – non-traditional security, Padrtova 2020; Shiblee and Rashid, 2021) leading states to provide them protection (Hossain, 2013). Consequently, the traditionalist vision is broken when topics such as economic, military, political, environmental and social are identified as sectors of security according to different sources of threats (Padrtova 2020, p. 31; Hossain, 2017, p. 6; Waisová, 2003, p. 60). Buzan, Wœver and De Wilde ´s vision is the basis for UN´s definition of human security8,9. Once the object climate change is perceived as a threat, then it becomes a “security issue only by being labelled as one” (Diskaya cited by Hossain, 2017, p. 6). Thefigure 1below presents the difference between “traditionalists”, “deepeners” and “wideners” where the objects are connected to a category.

Figure 1:Five Sectors (sources of threats) and different understandings of security

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source:Padrtova, 2020, p. 30

This confirms the link, nexus between climate change and security10as mentioned by the IPCC, WGII (2022).

The development of the analysis is to be done according to the qualitative methodology which allows an inductive reasoning through observation and analysis of official documents such asNATO Climate Change and Security Action Plan(2021),Madrid Strategic Concept 2022, ReportNATO and Climate Change: A Climatized Perspective on Security(2022) and The Secretary General´s ReportClimate Change & Security Impact Assessment(2022). The analysis is complemented with reports of rapporteur such as Jean-Charles Larsonneur (2021).

The development of this issue will be done by dividing the work in two parts: the first part will give a brief overview of Strategic Concepts (SC) that will give the opportunity to compare Lisbon Strategic Concept 2010 and Madrid Strategic Concept 2022 which appear to be opposing. It will be possible to check how the new document addresses climate change and if recommendations were taken into considerations during the elaboration of the new document and if they were able to match with Climate Change and Security Action Plan (2021) so it is not an isolated document. The second part will develop the ups and downs, attention and forgetfulness in the 20th and 21st centuries of the Arctic and how it is perceived within the Alliance. In the conclusion, it will be possible to confirm that: i)- the Arctic is part of NATO, even if it is not expressed, written in the Strategic Concept 2022; ii)- the Alliance still needs to adapt to a new context in a mix of traditional and non-traditional securities linked to the climate change threat.


1This paper can be considered as literature review of Rodrigues, C. (2022). NATO, the Arctic and climate security: Strategic Concept for a global threat.Munich, GRIN Verlag.

2IPCC. (2014). AR5.Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report Summary for Policymakers.

3 World Economic Forum. (2022).The Arctic is warming nearly four times faster than the rest of the world. How concerned should we be?

4Gorbachev, M. (1987, October 1). Mikhail Gorbachev's Speech in Murmansk at the Ceremonial Meeting on the Occasion of the Presentation of the Order of Lenin and the Gold Star to the City of Murmansk.

5United Nations. (2009).Climate change and its possible implications: Report of the Secretary-General. A/64/350.

6France 24. (2019, November 28). France's Macron defends 'brain death' criticism after talks with NATO chief.France 24.

7It is relevant to enhance that “This is only partially true. In fact, the Alliance’s creation was part of a broader effort to serve three purposes: deterring Soviet expansionism, forbidding the revival of nationalist militarism in Europe through a strong North American presence on the continent, and encouraging European political integration.” (NATO. (n.d). A Short History of NATO.

8See: United Nations. United Nations Development Programme. (1994).Human Development Report 1994.

9See: United Nations. Commission on Human Security. (2003).Human security now: protecting and empowering people. Commission on Human Security.

10The author of the Belfer report presents a different theory called climatization, climatized perspective on security. See: Rico, L.G. (2022). NATO and Climate Change: A Climatized Perspective on Security.Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Harvard Kennedy School. (p. 15)

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NATO, climate change and security. The Arctic missing in Madrid Strategic Concept 2022
University of Lisbon
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nato, arctic, madrid, strategic, concept
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Céline Rodrigues (Author), 2023, NATO, climate change and security. The Arctic missing in Madrid Strategic Concept 2022, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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