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Home » climate and security » In 2020, the Commander-in-Chief Will Have a “Responsibility to Prepare” for the Security Risks of Climate Change

In 2020, the Commander-in-Chief Will Have a “Responsibility to Prepare” for the Security Risks of Climate Change

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Soldiers with the Texas Army National Guard move floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Zachary West)

In an article published today in War on the Rocks, the Center for Climate and Security’s Caitlin Werrell, Francesco Femia and John Conger outline a “Responsibility to Prepare Strategy” for whomever is President in 2020, which includes a “Climate Security Plan” and a “Just Add Climate” approach to  traditional national security priorities. The article is a preview of a forthcoming set of recommendations by the Center’s “Climate and Security Advisory Group,” which will build on policy recommendations from 2016 and 2018. From the article:

Presidential candidates are offering their plans on climate change, and it’s a competition over who’s the most ambitious. That’s good news, given that it’s a major security threat that requires a major response. Thus far, most of the candidates’ plans understandably focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to a low-carbon economy. These steps are critically important, not least because the world will likely experience significant security disruptions in the future if the scale and scope of climate change are not reduced. But this is only half a strategy. Indeed, if there is a silver lining to climate change and the attendant security risks, it’s that we can see many of these changes coming. American scientists, the U.S. government (see this administration’s National Climate Assessment) and private industry have all shown they are capable of modeling climate change futures with a high degree of certainty compared to other trends. A climate model from 1967 still has a strong predictive capacity. Exxon’s own internal calculations and climate modeling from 1982 about where emissions would likely be in the future, including by 2020, were fairly spot-on. A political scientist in 1967 or 1982 would have had much more difficulty predicting what the political landscape would look like in 2020 than she or he would have making predictions about the climate.

Herein lies the opportunity: While the United States faces the unprecedented risk of climate change, it also has unprecedented foresight capabilities. Whoever takes office after the next election will have a responsibility to defend the United States from those foreseeable security threats — a “responsibility to prepare” that should underpin the president’s strategy on climate. This strategy should involve presidential leadership both on addressing climate change as a distinct security priority — a “Climate Security Plan” — and on integrating climate change into other security priorities — what we call the “Just Add Climate” approach

Click here for the full piece.


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