Human-Environment Interactions

Influence path and effect of climate change on geopolitical pattern

  • 1. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China;
    2. Graduate University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China

Received date: 2012-07-12

  Revised date: 2012-08-09

  Online published: 2012-12-15


Marked by the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen 2009, climate change is shaping the new pattern for future geopolitics with unprecedented drive. Climate change has surpassed the category of pure environment problem and become a focal issue in international relations. Driven by climate change, new changes have taken place in the evolution of geopolitical pattern. (1) Geopolitical contention expands into new fields and regions. (2) Measures and tools of geopolitical contention become more diversified. (3) Main bodies of geopolitical gambling are divided into different groups. With the development of politicization, climate change has become the significant driving force that can influence the evolution of geopolitical pattern. Measures, sphere and contents of geopolitical contention changed dramatically, carbon emission permits, carbon tariff and new energy technology turned into the key points of geopolitical contention. Climate change acts on the evolution of geopolitical pattern through three main paths: “Feedback effect”, “Trace back effect”, and “Ripple effect”, and they exert influence on geopolitical pattern with three impacts: “Depression effect”, “Traceability effect”, and “Diffusion effect”. We draw several conclusions from the analysis: (1) Climate change gradually becomes one of the most active driving forces to impact on the evolution of geopolitical pattern in the present world and it diversifies the geopolitical targets. (2) Climate change generates new geopolitical tools. The developed countries use climate change as a “Lever” to pry strategic resources like energy and grain and the geopolitical means are in a more secretive way. (3) Low-carbon technology, with new energy technology as the core, becomes the key factor of geopolitical influence and power transition. Those who can take advantage of new energy technologies will occupy the leading position in future’s climate change negotiations and geopolitical competition.

Cite this article

WANG Limao, GU Mengchen, LI Hongqiang . Influence path and effect of climate change on geopolitical pattern[J]. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 2012 , 22(6) : 1117 -1130 . DOI: 10.1007/s11442-012-0986-2


Alexandre Szklo, Roberto Schaeffer, Fernanda Delgado, 2007. Can one say ethanol is a real threat to gasoline? Energy Policy, 35: 5411-5421.
Alfred T Mahan, 2007. The Influence of Sea Power upon History. Xi’an: Shaanxi Normal University Press. Anthony Giddens, 2009. The Politics of Climate Change. Beijing: Social Science Academic Press.
British Petroleum Company, 2011. BP Statistical Review of World Energy June 2011
[EB/OL]., 23-31.
Clionadh Raleigh, Henrik Urdal, 2007. Climate change, environmental degradation and armed conflict. Political Geography, 26: 674-694.
Ding Zhongli, Duan Xiaonan, Ge Quansheng et al., 2009a. Control of atmospheric CO2 concentration by 2050: An allocation on the emission rights of different countries. Science in China (Series D), 39(8): 1009-1027. (in Chinese)
Ding Zhongli, Duan Xiaonan, Ge Quansheng et al., 2009b. On the major proposals for carbon emission reduction and some related issues. Science in China (Series D), 39(12): 1659-1671. (in Chinese)
Govinda R Timisina, Ashish Shrestha, 2011. How much hope should we have for biofuels? Energy, 36: 2055-2069.
Jacqueline Karas, Tatiana Bosteels, Benito Müller, 2005. OPEC and climate change: Challenges and opportunities. Report, November 2005, Royal Institute of International Affairs, London, UK.
Joseph S Nye, 1990. Soft power. Foreign Policy, Fall.
Joseph S Nye, William A Owens, 1996. American’s information edge. Foreign Affairs, March-April.
Joshua W Busby, 2008. Who cares about the weather? Climate change and U.S. national security. Security Studies, 17(3): 468-504.
Li Haidong, 2009. From periphery to center: The evolution of American policy toward climate change. American Studies Quarterly, (2): 20-35. (in Chinese)
Liu Congde, 1998. Geopolitics: History, Method and World Structure. Wuhan: Central China’s Normal University Press. (in Chinese)
Luttwak E, 1994. The theory and practice of geo-economics. In: Armand Clesse et al. (eds.). The International System after the Collapse of the East-West Order. Martin Nijhoff Publishers.
Ma Jianying, 2009. Global climate diplomacy. Foreign Affairs Review, 26(6): 30-45. (in Chinese)
Mao Haifeng, Yang Xiaojing, 2010. EU publishes “Schedule” for carbon emission reduction unilateral, which forces CAAC to pay 800 million yuan to EU per year? Economic Information Daily, 2010-11-19(A05). (in Chinese)
Mert Bilgin, 2009. Geopolitics of European natural gas demand: Supplies from Russia, Caspian and the Middle East. Energy Policy, 37: 4482-2292.
Pan Jiahua, 2008. Climate change: Geopolitical power game. Green Leaf, (4): 77-82. (in Chinese)
Pan Jiahua, 2009. Climate change after Copenhagen. Foreign Affairs Review, (6): 1-4. (in Chinese)
Peter Halden, 2007. The geopolitics of climate change
[EB/OL]. Stockholm: Swedish Deference Research Agency.
Richard C Powell, 2010. Lines of possession? The anxious constitutions of polar geopolitics. Political Geography, 29: 74-77.
Samuel P Huntington, 1993. The clash of civilizations. Foreign Affairs, Summer.
Shen Weilie, 2005. Introduction of Geopolitics. Beijing: National Defense University Press. (in Chinese)
Sheng Xiaoyue, 2009. How to cope with “Carbon Tariff”? China Environment News, 2009-08-31. (in Chinese)
Tirado M C, Cohen M J, Aberman N et al., 2010. Addressing the challenges of climate change and biofuel production for food and nutrition security. Food Research International, 43: 1729-1744.
Tobias A Persson, Christian Azar, Danial J A Johansson et al., 2007. Major oil exporters may profit rather than lose, in a carbon-constrained world. Energy Policy, 35: 6346-6353.
Wang Enyong, 2004. Political Geography of China. Beijing: Science Press. (in Chinese)
Wang Limao, 2009. The impact of bio-fuel’s development on the patterns of world energy geo-politics. Economic Geography, 29(11): 1971-1976. (in Chinese)
Wang Xinxin, Guo Hongdong, 2008. Overseas biofuel industry development and their impacts. World Agriculture, (4): 18-21. (in Chinese)
Zhang Haibin, 2009. Climate change and national security: A review of current research in the United States. Advances in Climate Change Research, 5(3): 145-150. (in Chinese)
Zhang Monan, 2011. “Carbon Tariff” is unfair on developing countries. Shanghai Financial News, 2011-04-12. (in Chinese)