The Center for Climate & Security

UPDATE: Chronology of U.S. Military Statements and Actions on Climate Change and Security: 2017-2019

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Since January 2017, twenty-one senior officials at the U.S. Defense Department (DoD) have publicly raised concerns about, and recommended actions to address, the security implications of climate change, both due to its effect on military infrastructure, readiness and operations, and its broader geostrategic implications for the United States.

This includes then-Secretary of Defense, James Mattis; Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Paul J. Selva; Secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer; Chief of the National Guard Bureau, General Joseph Lengyel; Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations and Environment (IE&E), Lucian L. Niemeyer; Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, R.D. James; Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Installations, Energy, and the Environment, Phyllis L. Bayer; Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment, and Energy, John Henderson; Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Glenn Walters; Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Bill Moran; Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, General Stephen Wilson; Army Vice Chief of Staff, General James McConville; AFRICOM Commander General Thomas D. Waldhauser; Air Force Director of Civil Engineers, Major General Timothy Green; NORTHCOM/ NORAD Commander, General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy; Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral John Richardson; Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy, and Environment, Alex Beehler; Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment, General Robert McMahon; General Joe Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; General Robert Neller, Commandant of the Marine Corps; and most recently, Admiral Philip Davidson, INDOPACOM Commander. The DoD also produced a survey report on the matter in January 2018, and a report to Congress on climate change threats to its critical military infrastructure and Geographic Combatant Commands in January 2019.

Below is a chronological list of written and verbal statements by these defense officials, as well as links to DoD reports and other government documents covering the climate-military nexus, that have been released during this Administration thus far. Each entry includes a link to its source, which includes more information and context. (more…)

The Climate and Security Podcast: Episode 8 with Michael Wu

Michael Wu_Climate and Security PodcastWelcome back to The Climate and Security Podcast!

In this episode, Michael Wu, Policy Fellow at The Center for Climate and Security and Principal of Converge Strategies, talks about the electric grid and its history. He discusses how the risk of long-term, widespread power outages is increasing as threats from natural disasters and adversaries increase. These threats mutually reinforce each another in that natural disasters make impacted areas more vulnerable to nefarious attacks.  He explains what electricity disruptions mean for Department of Defense mission completion as well as implications for our daily lives. Tune in to this informative discussion! (more…)

Commander of US Forces in the Indo-Asia Pacific Affirms Climate Change Threat

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Admiral Philip Davidson, Commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM), describes climate change threats before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Feb 12, 2019

By John Conger

During a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 12, Admiral Philip Davidson, Commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM), affirmed the threat climate change poses to his Area of Responsibility, becoming the 21st senior military official to raise concerns about climate risks during the current Administration (see here for a list from November, and here for statements from Admiral Moran and General Neller in December).

During questioning, Admiral Davidson confirmed that he agreed with the intelligence community’s assessment of the climate change threat, as articulated in the 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment published by the Director for National Intelligence (NOTE: climate change has been identified as a security threat in each of the last ten such assessments). (more…)

Unprecedented Risks, Unprecedented Foresight: A “Responsibility to Prepare” Strategy for the United States in 2020

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INDOPACOM service members aiding FEMA operations on Saipan and Tinian as they recover from typhoon Yutu, the 2nd worst storm ever to hit U.S. soil (Oct 2018)

The Council on Strategic Risks (CSR) is a security policy institute devoted to anticipating, analyzing and addressing core systemic risks to security in the 21st century, with special examination of the ways in which these risks intersect and exacerbate one another. To further this goal, CSR hosts non-partisan centers tackling unprecedented security risks from climate change (The Center for Climate and Security) and nuclear, biological and chemical weapons (The Center on Strategic Weapons), as well as a program designed to study converging, cross-sectoral threats (The Converging Risks Lab). As the United States looks forward to 2020, it must use its unprecedented foresight to prepare for and address these unprecedented security risks.

A Responsibility to Prepare Strategy for 2020

The bad news is that the United States and its allies currently face unprecedented risks from climate change; nuclear, biological and chemical weapons; authoritarian nationalism; and other disruptive trends. The good news is that the U.S. and its allies, due to advances in data-analysis technologies, including AI, also possess unprecedented foresight about these risks. That combination of unprecedented risks and unprecedented foresight underlines a Responsibility to Prepare. This responsibility will fall to whomever assumes the office of the President of the United States in 2020. (more…)

Venezuela: Drought, Mismanagement and Political Instability

ClimateZones_VenezuelaBy Lieutenant Commander Oliver-Leighton Barrett, US Navy (Ret)

Most of the story-lines driving the international community’s understanding of the Venezuelan crisis center on the Maduro regime’s gross mismanagement of the economy, and its clean break from democratic laws and tradition. That makes sense, not least as the most “proximate” causes of the current political turmoil in the country seem to be clearly related to those factors. However, there are some background factors that have gone less noticed. The Venezuelan government’s inability to manage its strained water resources in the face of a drought that the nation’s meteorologists characterized as “the worst in at least 40 years,” for example, is a largely unwritten part of the story that deserves to be aired. (more…)

UN Security Council on Climate and Security from 2017-2019

UN_security_council_2005On January 25, 2019 the Dominican Republic, during its month-long presidency of the UN Security Council (UNSC), hosted an “open debate” on climate change and security, which featured a number of important moments. The World Meteorological Organization publicly addressed the UNSC for the first time in its history, and a number of countries (among them France, the UK, Germany, Peru, Poland and Belgium) called for the UNSC to establish increased analytical capacities for addressing climate risks to international security, such as a “clearing house” for data and information, including an early warning system and an annual report on climate and security to be delivered by the UN secretary general to the UNSC. These calls were consistent with the Center for Climate and Security’s “Responsibility to Prepare” recommendations delivered to the UNSC in December 2017, especially those on “institutionalization” and “rapid response” which recommended that the UN develop “Climate Security Crisis Watch Centers” to keep the UNSC informed. (more…)

U.S. GAO Issues 2 Reports in 2 Months Covering Climate and Security

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The GAO’s Washington, DC Headquarters

The U.S. Government Accountability Office, or GAO, has issued two reports in the past two months that address the security implications of climate change. One on climate and migration, and the other on emerging threats.

The most recent, titled “Climate Change: Activities of Selected Agencies to Address Potential Impact on Global Migration” was released last month. The full report is worth a read, but the section on climate change, migration and possible national security implications is particularly interesting, not least as the GAO is wisely cautious about how it describes those dynamics. In the section titled “Climate Change Impacts on Migration that May Affect National Security,” on page 6, the report states: (more…)

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