By Ladeene Freimuth, Special Guest Contributor
As we begin a new decade and move further into the 21st century, increasing U.S. leadership and security in the Arctic are vital, in light of the growing threats America faces there. The U.S. cannot lose sight of important geostrategic changes occurring vis-a-vis the Arctic, due to the “threat multiplier” effects of climate change, which are exacerbating the security challenges for the U.S. there and elsewhere around the globe.
A recent hearing on the “Expanding Opportunities, Challenges, and Threats in the Arctic” in the Security Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation sought to highlight this need for the U.S. to reassert its leadership in the Arctic by examining climate change and national security challenges and opportunities in the region, with an emphasis on the U.S. Coast Guard’s strategic role. Climate impacts are “reshaping the strategic operating environment for the Coast Guard in the Arctic, and around the world,” as the Honorable Sherri Goodman, Senior Strategist for the Center for Climate and Security, testified before the Subcommittee. In 2018, former Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, stated that the U.S. needs to “up its game” in the Arctic, because the U.S. is inadequately prepared for the changing threat environment there. (more…)
By Marc Kodack
Ready, easy access to timely water-related information is a benefit to any community because the information can provide current conditions and/or short-term forecast estimates. The information may provide forewarning to impending conditions that may adversely affect people and/or property. Baseline conditions may also be established from which changes over time can be determined.
The U.S. Geological Survey has released a new mapping tool that shows daily natural water storage for 110,000 sub-regions in the lower 48 states relative to historical conditions for the same time of year. “Natural water storage…includes water present on the landscape such as standing water and water on trees, snowpack, soil water, and shallow groundwater. It does not include water in rivers or deep groundwater.” (more…)
By Marc Kodack
On 9 January, the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, held a hearing to discuss the 2020 Water Resources Development Act. There were two witnesses: The Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, HON R.D. James, and the Chief of Engineers of the United States Army and the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Lieutenant General Todd Semonite. During the hearing, Assistant Secretary James noted that the Army Corps of Engineers would continue to consider the science of climate change unless explicitly ordered not to. See below for the full exchange on climate change between the Subcommittee Chairwoman, Representative Grace Napolitano, and Assistant Secretary James. (more…)
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence and New Studies Warn of Climate Change and Water Security
By Marc Kodack
Concerns about the effects of climate change on security – particularly the way that climate change can exacerbate threats to U.S. interests – have driven several recent U.S. House of Representative hearings. Senior intelligence officials have been at the forefront of these warnings. For example, in recent testimony by Maria Langan-Riekhof of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (during an extraordinary hearing of the Emerging Threats Subcommittee titled “Climate Change in the Era of Strategic Competition”), she highlighted that water stresses in the Middle East and Central America are increasing, and that these changes will degrade already poor government services, strain communities, and challenge agricultural production. These and other stresses can lead to increased local and regional political, economic, and social instability. (more…)
Policymakers and emergency managers tend to build a conceptual wall between natural hazards and terrorism. The causes of—and remedies for—these two kinds of disasters are seen as separate and distinct. But, in the era of climate change, the wall between the two is crumbling.
As climate and weather patterns shift, the resulting environmental crisis is being leveraged as a tool for terror and political violence. Around the world, environmental stress due to unpredictable weather catalyzes political violence, further undermining weak governments. And in the United States, the environmental crisis is a “threat multiplier” that could enable terrorism, overwhelm response capabilities, and threaten populations and critical infrastructure. (more…)
By Marc Kodack
The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently issued its 2019 National Preparedness Report, and it’s conspicuously missing a key threat to security – climate change. The report provides an overview of FEMA’s 2018 efforts to address the National Preparedness Goal. The goal is sub-divided into five mission areas; prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery that together address “the threats, hazards and incidents that pose the greatest risk to the Nation.” Spread across the five mission areas are 32 activities or core capabilities. Despite the unprecedented risks associated with it, climate change and its’ effects—e.g., sea level rise, coastal or inland storm intensity and flooding, increases in temperature, drought, wildfire—are not mentioned anywhere in the report. None of the 32 activities and core capabilities acknowledge this growing risk factor for the US homeland. (more…)
In an interesting Defense One article from RUSI’s Elisabeth Braw (from late October last year, but we’re just catching up with it…), she details the ways in which a rapidly-changing climate can help facilitate China and Russia’s strategies of “blended aggression,” or “hybrid war,” which involves the exploitation of multiple disruptions in the global security landscape to undermine adversaries. The byline reads:
Increased refugee flows, weather threats, and declining food security will deepen tensions already being exploited to divide and weaken the U.S. and its allies.
Click here for the full article, as it’s worth a read.