A new, first-of-its-kind report from the Center for Climate and Security (CCS), China’s Climate Security Vulnerabilities explores China’s security vulnerabilities in the face of expected climate change effects, focusing on its key risks, the Chinese response so far, and identifies important uncertainties as conditions continue to develop. The report also makes several recommendations for the United States as it addresses what the Department of Defense has called the “pacing threat” from China.
While China is often credited with better integrating a long-term approach to its strategic planning than the West, there are key uncertainties regarding Beijing’s climate security preparations, including tensions between day-to-day politics and strategic planning, as well as the adequacy of its adaptation strategy, which is largely rooted in physical infrastructure projects.
From the Executive Summary:
From melting glaciers in the Tibetan Plateau to the effect of rising sea levels on the heavily populated Yangtze River Basin and Pearl River Delta, from record heatwaves and drought to unprecedented flooding from extreme precipitation—a range of climate hazards threaten critical Chinese civilian and military infrastructure, risk domestic political instability, including in already restive regions of the country, and challenge Chinese geopolitical interests abroad.
China’s senior leadership appears to recognize climate change as a national security threat. Under Xi Jinping, China has adopted a broad concept of national security that encompasses internal and external, traditional and non-traditional threats. It is unclear, however, the extent to which ecological and climate security topics have permeated Chinese military strategy and doctrine, though public documents and statements provide some indications that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is at least considering these climate implications.
By Pauline Baudu
On November 3, the Center for Climate and Security (CCS) hosted a public discussion moderated by Hon. John Conger, Director Emeritus of CCS and Senior Advisor at the Council on Strategic Risks, on “Understanding the Army, Navy, and Air Force Climate Strategies.”
The event featured Hon. Sherri Goodman, Senior Strategist at CCS and Chair of the Board of the Council on Strategic Risks; Ed Oshiba, Acting Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Air Force (Energy, Installations and Environment); Paul Farnan, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Army (Installations, Energy and Environment); Jim Balocki, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Navy (Energy, Installations and Environment) and Rachel Ross, Deputy Chief Sustainability Officer of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). Panelists discussed the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force climate plans released earlier this year, an important step towards integrating climate security planning across DoD and adding substance to existing national strategic efforts, as noted by Mr. Conger.(more…)
The Biden Administration’s new National Security Strategy (NSS), released in October 2022, elevates attention and focus on climate security beyond any prior NSS. The security risks of climate change get the attention in the NSS they have long deserved. Climate change is in fact framed as a top-tier threat on a par with geopolitical challenges from U.S. adversaries and competitors.
The NSS states:
“Of all of the shared problems we face, climate change is the greatest and potentially [most] existential for all nations. Without immediate global action during this crucial decade, global temperatures will cross the critical warming threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius after which scientists have warned some of the most catastrophic climate impacts will be irreversible.”
The world is already experiencing deadly and life-altering climate-related catastrophes (e.g, flooding in Pakistan, fires and drought in California, hurricanes in Florida) when the Earth’s global average land and ocean surface temperature has risen at least 1.1 degrees Celsius since the mid-1800s (approximately 2 degrees Fahrenheit). This NSS recognizes the unprecedented risks posed by such disasters. It therefore includes climate risks and related solutions in every aspect of national security and foreign policy, from reduction of carbon pollution to building resilience at home and abroad, and threading climate risks into every regional strategy. In this regard, the new NSS includes many of the recommendations in our Briefer of June 2021,“Climate Change in the U.S. National Security Strategy: History and Recommendations.”
The most recent NSS addresses our five key recommendations as well emerging concerns due to Russia’s war in Ukraine. These are 1) include all sectors, not just energy, including sources and sinks; 2) expand the concept of climate security to ecological security; 3) increase environmental monitoring; 4) forecast and plan for unpredictability; 5) assert strong U.S. leadership on climate and inter-related global ecological concerns, including passing aggressive climate and environmental restoration legislation and appropriating sufficient funding.
This briefer by the Center for Climate and Security focuses on these five recommendations and the relevant provisions within the NSS, concluding that the NSS both succeeds in recognizing the interdependence of all natural systems and resources, but also embodies several contradictions which should be improved. However, “the theme of the 2022 NSS is spot on: ‘No country should withhold progress on existential transnational issues like the climate crisis because of bilateral differences.'”
Welcome to “Read, Watch, Listen” from the Center for Climate and Security (CCS), a monthly round-up highlighting some of the articles, interviews, and podcasts featuring the CCS network of experts.
In October, anticipation of the 27th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 27) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) led to increased interest in the challenges climate change poses for security worldwide. See how CCS experts tackled the various discussions this month.
- Sherri Goodman (Senior Strategist) and Pauline Baudu (non-resident research assistant) contributed a 2040 scenario exploring the geopolitics of a decarbonized future to The Berlin Pulse.
- Advisory Board Member, Gen. Tom Middendorp (ret.), spoke on a panel focused on the security importance of a Green Europe. (Warsaw Security Forum)
- Ahead of COP27, Director Erin Sikorsky analyzed the international security implications of recent reports from the International Energy Agency and the UN, noting that the world is progressing faster than ever towards green energy, yet greater investment is needed. (BBC News)
- Brigitte Hugh (Research Fellow), participated in an event discussing climate-related migration and the gaps in protection for those affected. (Plus Institute)
- Sikorsky spoke on a panel on climate and security with Andrea Cameron, a member of the Climate and Security Working Group (CSWG), during a symposium on evolving global security challenges hosted by the Oklahoma Aerospace & Defense Innovation Institute.
- Director Emeritus, John Conger, discussed the difficulties for the defense sector in facing consecutive extreme weather events while trying to prepare for the future. (The Red Line)
- Conger warned that as climate resilience resources increase, especially in the military, strategy will be paramount in order to avoid maladaptation. (CDA Institute)
- Sikorsky spoke about the various climate security challenges facing China and their priorities in responding. (The Red Line)
- With the release of the new Air Force climate security plan, Conger discussed the differences and similarities between each of the military service plans. (The Defense Scoop Podcast)
- Conger highlighted the pieces of the new Air Force Climate plan which stand out to him. (E&E News)