Washington, D.C. — The Center for Climate and Security (CCS), a policy institute with an Advisory Board of retired senior military officers and national security experts, applauds U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s attention to the security and humanitarian risks posed by climate change at the ASEAN defense ministers meeting in Hawaii today. The United States is a Pacific nation, and it is critical that our military prepare for the security risks and opportunities climate change will present – especially in light of the U.S. Asia-Pacific “rebalance.”
As CCS Advisory Board member Admiral Frank “Skip” Bowman, USN (Ret), stated: “The geopolitical situation in the Asia-Pacific is ever more nuanced and complex. The risk of maritime events, or even unpredictable flashpoints, endemic to our national security, is growing with each day. Hard work and difficult decisions lie ahead and Sec. Hagel has taken an important step towards preparing the U.S. and our allies in the region for future climatic and humanitarian risks.”
General Ronald Keys, USAF (Ret), a CCS Advisory Board Member, invoked the words of Sun Tzu, stating: “The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made out position unassailable.” General Keys continued: “As you would expect, military planners have rationally assessed the risk, agree that climate change is real…and because the cascading impacts will be severe, are moving out with adaptation and mitigation despite the budget pressures they face. That clearly highlights the seriousness with which they view the issue.”
CCS Advisory Board member Lieutenant General Arlen D. Jameson, USAF (Ret), also emphasized the seriousness of the risks, stating: “It is important that Secretary of Defense Hagel continues to speak out about a world more prone to conflict as climate change impacts grow. Sea level rise, growing numbers of refugees, severe weather, food shortages, and other climate change-related risks make international stability a big challenge for this century.”
The Asia-Pacific is the most militarized region of the world. The region hosts seven out of the world’s ten largest standing armies and five of the world’s declared nuclear nations. Climate change will act as a “threat multiplier” in this sensitive region, and the U.S. military will play a crucial role in helping to mitigate these risks, and building the confidence of our Asia-Pacific allies and partners, both current and prospective.
As CCS Advisory Board Member Sherri Goodman, former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Environmental Security: “Secretary Hagel recognizes the need to act now to reduce the risks of climate change in the Asia-Pacific where some of most important allies and partners are threatened by extreme weather, rising seas, and floods. Working with allies on disaster risk reduction and increasing the operational resilience of our forces should be a prime priority. As Secretary Hagel observed in the Quadrennial Defense Review, drawing on the work of the CNA Military Advisory Board, climate change acts as a threat multiplier for instability and conflict.”
Failing to address climate change threats to food, water and energy security, especially those impacting already-fragile or particularly vulnerable nations, could force the United States into post facto responses to such threats once they materialize, leading to costly disaster response and conflict resolution efforts. On the other hand, acknowledging and taking steps to address and reduce the adverse security impacts of climate change will ultimately save lives and money and strengthen national security.
The Center for Climate and Security applauds Secretary Hagel for his pragmatic approach to addressing the national security and humanitarian risks of a changing climate in the Asia-Pacific, and calls on the U.S. government as a whole to support his continued work in this area.
To speak with a CCS expert on this topic, contact Francesco Femia at firstname.lastname@example.org
A complication of quotes from U.S. national security officials on climate change: click here
A database of U.S. Department of Defense documents referencing climate change: click here