The Center for Climate & Security

U.S. National Guard Chief: Climate change “part of our job jar”

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Soldiers with the Texas Army National Guard move floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Zachary West)

Over the last month, the US National Guard has activated thousands of members from across the country to help put out wildfires and respond to three severe hurricanes. It is no wonder then that when asked by a reporter on Tuesday how the climate was affecting National Guard activities, General Joseph Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, went into detail on why he takes it seriously (see below). General Lengyel also emphasized that the impacts of climate change are felt around the country. As the wildfires and hurricanes demonstrate, natural disasters in one region of the United States are often responded to by National Guard members from all across the country – sometimes from states thousands of miles away.  Secretary of Defense James Mattis has stated that preparing for climate requires a “whole of government” response. Gen Lengyel’s comments suggest it will also require a “whole of country” response.  (more…)

Lake Chad: Tackling Climate-Fragility Links

Lake ChadBy Stella Schaller, adelphi

The state of emergency in Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon continues – residents around Lake Chad struggle with extreme food insecurity and are severely impacted by widespread violence. The crisis is often cited as a living example of the security threats climate change can pose, but in fact many pressures interact to create a perfect storm of risks. A new short film by adelphi investigates the root causes of the crisis, the role of climate change, and possible entry points to tackle climate-fragility risks in the region and beyond. (more…)

Alice C. Hill Joins the Center for Climate and Security Advisory Board

Hill_Alice Alice C. Hill is the newest distinguished member of the Center for Climate and Security Advisory Board. Alice is also a Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, where her work focuses on catastrophic risk, including the impacts of climate change. She previously served at the White House as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Resilience Policy on the National Security Council.  Hill led the creation of national policy regarding resilience to catastrophic risk. Her work spanned development of the first ever federal flood risk standard, creation of a national drought plan, expanding federal focus on the Arctic and addressing national security and climate change. (more…)

Military Times: Pentagon still preparing for climate change

Sailors_and_Soldiers_load_water_onto_an_MH-60S_Sea_Hawk_helicopter._(37044691925)

BEAUMONT, Texas (Sept. 3, 2017) U.S. Army Soldiers and U.S. Navy Sailors load water for delivery to victims of Hurricane Harvey, Sept. 3, 2017.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr.,/Released)

There’s a great article in the Military Times today by Tara Copp detailing the degree to which the U.S. military continues to prepare for a changing climate, and the attendant impacts on its mission. In the piece, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr Patrick Evans states:

“As Secretary Mattis has said, the department evaluates all potential threats that impact mission readiness, personnel health and installation resilience, then uses that information to assess impacts and identify responses,” Evans said. “The effect of a changing climate is one of a variety of threats and risks, but it’s not a mission of the Department of Defense.”

Though this approach by the Department of Defense is not surprising, given the military’s long history of attention to the issue stretching back to 2003, and the unequivocal statements on the subject from at least four senior Pentagon leaders in the current Administration (Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis; Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Paul Selva; Secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer; and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations and Environment, Lucian Niemeyer) the article provides an important look into the very real and practical risks climate change and related weather events pose to military infrastructure and operations. This is especially in focus for the Department of Defense in the wake of hurricanes Irma and Harvey, which have had a significant impact on the military in a number of ways, both in terms of its role in the relief effort, and the exposure of its infrastructure and assets. From the article: (more…)

The Climate Factor in Syrian Instability: A Conversation Worth Continuing

Hoerling et al 2012

Observed change in cold season precipitation for the period 1971–2010 minus 1902–70 (Hoerling et al., 2012).

A recently-released study by Jan Selby and colleagues analyzes existing research on the intersection of climate change and conflict in Syria. The article, published in the Journal of Political Geography, includes a critique of a 2015 study published by the Center for Climate and Security’s (CCS) Caitlin Werrell, Francesco Femia and Troy Sternberg (and a short briefer by CCS from 2012), as well as two other studies by Colin Kelley et al (2015) and Peter Gleick (2014). More research into the climate-conflict nexus in pre-civil war Syria is certainly welcome for better understanding the risks and informing future policies for addressing them. In this study, Selby et al. point to some important gaps in the data on the connection between displaced peoples and social and political unrest, and the possible role of market liberalization in the Syrian conflict. However, the study does nothing to refute the role of climate change in Syrian instability in the years before the war, while muddying the waters on the subject through a few mischaracterizations that are worth addressing at some length. (more…)

ASEAN Climate and Security Cooperation Continues

No better friend: Marines and sailors showcase humanitarian capabilities during ASEAN conference

Marines and sailors showcase humanitarian capabilities during ASEAN conference (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Shaltiel Dominguez)

By Shiloh Fetzek, Senior Fellow for International Affairs

The security implications of climate change are particularly acute in the Asia-Pacific region. It therefore comes as no surprise that this issue was raised several times during the August 2-8 ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Manila, Philippines.

At the ASEAN Plus Three (or APT: ASEAN plus China, South Korea and Japan) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Monday, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano indicated that expanding regional cooperation on climate security issues would be on the agenda. (more…)

A Responsibility to Prepare: Governing in an Age of Unprecedented Risk and Foresight

UN_security_council_2005Report summary: The world in the 21st century is characterized by both unprecedented risk and unprecedented foresight. Climate change, population shifts and cyber-threats are rapidly increasing the scale and complexity of risks to international security, while technological developments are increasing our capacity to foresee those risks. This world of high consequence risks, which can be better modeled and anticipated than in the past, underscores a clear responsibility for the international community: A “Responsibility to Prepare.” This responsibility, which builds on hard-won lessons of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) framework for preventing and responding to mass atrocities, requires a reform of existing governance institutions to ensure that critical, nontraditional risks to international security, such as climate change, are anticipated, analyzed and addressed systematically, robustly and rapidly by intergovernmental security institutions and the security establishments of nations that participate in that system. For more, see the Responsibility to Prepare page, including the full report.

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