An international group of military, finance, science and energy experts today (13 July) released a new independent assessment of the risks of climate change, designed to support political leaders in their decisions on how much priority to give to the issue. The Center for Climate and Security’s Co-Directors, Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell, acted as contributing authors to Chapter 21 of the report, titled “Climate Change Risks to National and International Security.”
In response to the report release, Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell stated:
This report takes a hard look at the international and national security risks of climate change, and of not doing something about reducing those risks. It makes the case that as with other risks to world order, including nuclear proliferation and terrorism, we can’t wait for 100% certainty before taking the necessary actions to keep us safe.
Dr. Marcus King, Advisory Board member with the Center for Climate and Security, noted:
This report is a timely, clear and comprehensive framework for assessing the security risks of climate change. It provides actionable information to the highest levels of government. The need to understand climate risk as a security issue is not just a narrative or political ploy, it is an urgent reality.
The full report argues that the risks of climate change should be assessed in the same way as risks to national security or public health. That means focusing on understanding what is the worst that could happen, and how likely it is to occur. The report identifies thresholds beyond which ‘the inconvenient may become intolerable’. These include limits of human tolerance for heat stress, and limits of crops’ tolerance for high temperatures, which if exceeded could lead to large-scale fatalities and crop failure; as well as potential limits to coastal cities’ ability to successfully adapt to rising sea levels.
The report suggests that the largest risks of climate change may be those that are magnified by the interactions of people, markets and governments. It finds that migration from some regions of the world could become ‘more a necessity than a choice’ and that the risks of state failure could rise significantly, affecting many countries simultaneously.
The report recommends that climate change risk assessments should be updated regularly and communicated to political leaders at the highest level.
Speaking at the report’s launch at the London Stock Exchange, Foreign Office Minister Baroness Anelay said:
When we think about keeping our country safe, we always consider the worst case scenarios. That is what guides our policies on nuclear non-proliferation, counter-terrorism, and conflict prevention. We have to think about climate change the same way. Unlike those more familiar risks, the risks of climate change will increase continually over time – until we have entirely eliminated their cause. To manage these risks successfully, it is essential that we take a long-term view, and that we act in the present, with urgency.
The report, ‘Climate Change: A Risk Assessment’ is available online at: http://www.csap.cam.ac.uk/projects/climate-change-risk-assessment/
The risk assessment was commissioned by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as an independent contribution to the climate change debate.
Francesco Femia: ffemia at climateandsecurity dot org