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Climate Change and Security at Yale University


unnamed (3)“Are conventional notions of national security broad enough to accommodate the evolving global risks and trends?”

“Will Americans support more frequent military interventions across conflict ridden and resource-stressed regions?” 

These were just a few of the questions fielded by former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense, Ms.Sherri Goodman and retired Commander, and Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Climate and Security, Oliver Barrett, at a Yale University-hosted event on 28 March. The event entitled ‘Decoding Climate Risk’ was the latest expert and distinguished speaker event hosted by Yale and focused on “decoding” the reasons why the Pentagon treats climate change as a strategic risk requiring immediate action.

The 40-minute Q&A session moderated by Dr. Timothy Snyder was preceded by 20-minute presentations delivered by each speaker which revealed shared concerns related to climate change-induced impacts on water and food insecurity, and the subsequent fallout. Mr. Barrett stressed that climate change, as a stressor, could catalyze fragile state dysfunction leading to more failing and failed states, increasing migration flows from the Middle East and North Africa, and other manifestations of the phenomenon he called failed states spillage.

Both guests lauded the Pentagon’s release of DoD Directive 4715.21: Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience – a document CCS Advisory Board member Rear Admiral (ret) David Titley characterized as the most robust output on climate change in a long line of assessments, strategy and planning documents. Ms. Goodman and Mr. Barrett explained that the directive compels all organs of the Department of Defense, including Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and all the Combatant Commands, to integrate climate change into their deliberate and contingency planning processes. Mr. Barrett emphasized that the sea change in thought that has enabled historic policy decisions like Directive 4715.21 was brought about by a dedicated cadre of leaders within the Department of Defense and intelligence communities, and by nongovernmental institutions such as the CNA Military Advisory Board, which Ms. Goodman led for many years, and more recently, the Center for Climate and Security.

The Center for Climate and Security specifically thanks Yale University’s School of Forestry and the Environment students Ms. Lea Lumpkin and Ms. Laura Hammett for coordinating the event, but also Yale University more generally for continuing to elevate this increasingly consequential topic. The Center for Climate and Security will continue to support these types of events nationwide as part of its effort to foster and deepen understanding of the national security risks of climate change.


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