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Secretary of Defense Carter: the “growing strategic impact of climate change”

ash_carter_dod_secretary_portraitU.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter made a recent statement at the Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore, calling for a “principled security network” for the Asia-Pacific region – one that could collectively address the region’s myriad security challenges – including “the growing strategic impact of climate change.” Rather than ranking threats against each other, which tends to miss the integrated nature of the security landscape, Secretary Carter places climate change within the broader context of a range of pressing security threats and opportunities facing the region, that will be best addressed through a cooperative approach:

Through a principled security network, we can all meet the challenges we’re facing together – whether it’s Russia’s worrying actions, North Korea’s nuclear and missile provocations, the threat posed by extremists groups, or the growing strategic impact of climate change.  These challenges and others are real for all of us who live in the Asia-Pacific.  But so are the opportunities: for nations, for militaries, and for the people of the Asia-Pacific.

Secretary Carter’s statement is consistent with the Center for Climate and Security’s perspective on the strategic risks of a changing climate in the region, as well as the strategic opportunities inherent in the U.S. addressing these risks with its allies, partners and prospective partners.

In a recent article published in the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s The Strategist, CCS’s Caitlin Werrell and Francesco Femia call for a U.S. “Climate Security Plan.” In terms of defense, they state:

…the US military can help maintain stability in climate-vulnerable nations in the Asia–Pacific region, through both military–military and civilian–military engagement on climate preparedness.

In a CCS report published in November of last year titled “The U.S. Asia-Pacific Rebalance, National Security and Climate Change,” Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III (ret), former U.S. Pacific Commander, noted:

As we seek to rebalance and reinvigorate our historic alliances, build new strategic
and economic partnerships, and effectively posture our military in the Asia-Pacific for the 21st century, we must address the potentially catastrophic security implications of climate change in the Asia-Pacific and their likely impact on U.S. interest in the region.
In the same report, CCS’s Femia and Werrell asserted that the success of the U.S. strategic rebalance to the region will in part be dependent on how it addresses climate risks to its allies and partners:
…in order for this strategic shift to translate into lasting influence, the United States needs a comprehensive diplomatic, defense and development agenda for building the region’s resilience to key emerging threats – including climate change.
Secretary Carter’s words are just the latest in a long string of statements, documents and actions put forward by the U.S. Department of Defense across Administrations, which demonstrate a concern for the geostrategic security risks of climate change – in the Asia-Pacific and in other key regions around the world.

1 Comment

  1. Dr. Vlad Fomin says:

    In recent years, many countries have improved warning systems, technologies, and organizations active in the fight against climate anomalies. The intensity and power of climatic disasters have increased dramatically; observed phenomena commented as “Never such was not.” It is good that the dominant role in solving the problems the military play, always thinking about effective defense: very helpful. However, the military know and believe that the best defense is attack Ahead: The best way to win. Nevertheless, in the strategy of war, to combat the likely consequences of climate change, there is not even the assumption of actions to prevent the occurrence and impacts of climate change. Such a scenario – something that can be called a “strategic mistake”, always guaranteeing defeat. Although, if only because the possibility of humanity is negligible compared to the power of our planet … We may be late.

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