Volume 80, Number 5

November 2005

Global Environmental Threats: Can the Security Council Protect Our Earth?

Alexandra Knight

The link between environmental degradation and international security has attracted new attention due to the publication of the United Nations report A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility, authored by the High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, a group of experts assembled by Kofi Annan and tasked with advising the Security Council about new global threats. The panel specifically focuses on desertification, deforestation, and climate change as urgent global environmental threats possibly requiring Security Council action because of their potential to cause massive loss of life and undermine state functions. The report provokes important questions: If,fo r example, a nation embarked upon a massive deforestation campaign which upset the ocean currents and threatened to send an entire continent into a deep freeze, would the Security Council be able to take measures against the offending nation to counteract this massive environmental threat? In this Note, Alexandra Knight argues that it is legally justified and legitimate for the Security Council, acting under the provisions of Chapter VII, Article 41 of the United Nations Charter, to impose measures to counter regional or global threats to the environment which pose a grave threat to human life and living conditions. While Chapter VII measures also include the use of force, Knight argues that only Article 41 measures—non-military measures like sanctions or interruption of communications—are appropriate to counter environmental threats.