The Center for Climate & Security

Survey of Security Experts Warns of Potentially Catastrophic Climate Threats in the Next 20 Years

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By Kate Guy

Urgent climate risks are impacting our world today in profound ways, as leaders from the United States and 40 other countries will discuss in the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate later this week. Climate change is no longer a “future” risk that will strike decades from now, but one that is already actively shaping the security landscape for all countries. These risks are now on track to increase significantly in response to the Earth’s continued warming trajectory, and will require new investments in resilience to keep communities safe. Forecasting surveys offer one tool for security actors to plan for this changing–and increasingly dangerous–future. 

For the second year in a row, the Expert Group of the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS Expert Group) surveyed top climate security experts on their predictions of how and when climate security risks are likely to progress (see last year’s survey here). Their responses offer insightful opinions about which risks this expert community deems the most likely to disrupt security in the years ahead, as well as how these security threats may interact with each other. 

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A Climate Security Plan for NATO: Collective Defense for the 21st Century

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This is an excerpt from an article published in Environmental Affairs, a journal from Policy Exchange

By Erin Sikorsky and Sherri Goodman

Since its founding in 1949, the core organising principle of NATO has remained the same: collective defense. An attack against one is an attack against all. Article 5, which articulates this principle, has famously only been invoked once, in the wake of 9/11. Today, however, some of the biggest security risks facing the Alliance do not come from states or organizations alone, but instead from transnational, actorless threats like climate change and pandemics. What does collective defense mean in the face of increased extreme weather events, rising temperatures, and surging sea levels? More importantly, how do these climate change effects exacerbate or contribute to other security risks facing NATO, whether the rise of geopolitics in the Arctic, political instability in the Middle East and North Africa, or the increasing need for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief within Alliance members themselves?

Read the full article here at Policy Exchange

Event: Climate Change, Intelligence, and Global Security

Fri., Apr. 23, 2021 | 12:00pm – 5:30pm

Online Series: Intelligence Seminar Series

Climate Change, Intelligence, and Global Security is a half-day conference co-sponsored by the Intelligence Project and the Environment and Natural Resources Program at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs along with the Center for Climate and Security. 

The conference will directly follow the April 22/23 Earth Day Leaders Climate Summit, and will emphasize the critical need for international cooperation and global leadership to collectively address the security threats posed by the climate crisis. We will convene senior climate experts, current and former intelligence officers, and leaders in the private sector and academia to facilitate productive dialogue and innovative solutions for combating the climate crisis. The four panels will examine climate change from a security perspective, discuss the role of the intelligence community in monitoring and mitigating the threats posed by climate change, explore new ways of thinking about international intelligence cooperation, and examine the role and contributions of the private sector.

This conference is virtual, open to the public, and free to attend.  Advanced registration is required. Please register individually for each session. 

RSVP here.

The Use of Climate as a Scapegoat for Governance Abuses and Failures – and Why That’s a Problem

Lake Assad and the Tabaqah Dam

By Peter Schwartzstein

Getting environmental officials to expound on their countries’ crises can be futile in much of the Middle East and North Africa (and well beyond). These officials might not want to talk about pollution because they have no plan – or wherewithal – to tackle it. It can be difficult to draw them out on the causes of degraded landscapes as they’re generally powerless to stifle the perpetrators. Even biodiversity die-off is often out. It can be too closely linked to their own governments’ policies.

There is one subject, though, where many of these public officials have considerably less reserve, and that’s climate change. As a devastating global phenomenon for which most of their states are only marginally responsible, many feel it’s the safest of ground. In discussions across these regions, previously tight-lipped interviewees have frequently become outright voluble when I’ve solicited their thoughts on drought, desertification, dust storms, and more. ‘Ah, benign territory!’ their expressions sometimes seem to suggest. 

There’s a tremendous upside to this heightened interest, of course. With some of the fiercest climate stresses in the world and some of the most limited efforts to adapt or mitigate the damage to date, many Middle Eastern and North African states desperately need to face up to these threats, particularly in the field of climate security, where they’re feeling the pressure more than most. Indeed, some already are. A number of African states have redirected up to 10% of their GDP to combat stresses from climate change. The sooner laggard officials are moved to concrete action the better.

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