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Sherri Goodman on the Climatization of Security for the Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies

By Mackenzie Allen

In early December 2020, Sherri Goodman spoke with Bangladeshi retired Major General Munir Muniruzzaman about climate security in South East Asia and the United States. Goodman discussed mainstreaming climate change in foreign policy and national security decision-making as part of the Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS) virtual ‘Strategic Conversation’ discussion program. 

Sherri Goodman currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Council on Strategic Risks and is a Senior Strategist for its Center for Climate and Security. General Muniruzzaman is the President of the BIPSS and Chairman of the Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change. 

During their conversation, Goodman highlighted the significance of climate security in the Biden administration, which has recently detailed the four crises that the U.S. must tackle: COVID-19, an economic recession, climate change, and racial injustice. The Biden administration, she explained, will step up by integrating climate security throughout foreign policy and national security strategies, threading it through all U.S. policies, programs, and practices – a process that Goodman refers to as the “climatization of security.” This will help the nation to “recover and reset towards a green, clean economy in a way that is more sustainable for our future.”

In her remarks, Goodman emphasized the key role Bangladesh plays in addressing the issue of climate change at both a regional and global level, as well as General Muniruzzaman’s contribution to mainstreaming the issue of climate security internationally. South Asia is vitally important as the world moves to meet climate goals, and it will have a large task as both an economic and transit hub of the world. As Goodman highlights, much of Southeast Asia has been in energy poverty for many decades and there must be a transition away from coal, which is widely used in China and Southeast Asia. This will contribute to a global economy adjustment from fossil fuel dependence to renewable energy sources that aim to to accomplish the goal set by the Paris Climate Agreement to hold global temperature rise to the 1.5°C increase above base levels.

Goodman also covered the issue of sea-level rise and its security implications, especially for Bangladesh and countries in the Pacific. As sea level rises, the consequences could be severe, with major urban coastal communities possibly becoming uninhabitable faster than governments have the ability to adapt. One of the major consequences will be human displacement. The world is already seeing mass migrations of climate refugees given that a significant proportion of humanity- over one-third of the total human population- lives within 100km of the sea. In fact, this is the greatest wave of global migration since World War II. In Bangladesh alone, tens of thousands have already been displaced and forced to relocate. Just a 1-meter sea level rise along the country’s southern coast will mean a loss of around 17% of Bangladesh’s territory and could result in over 20 million additional climate refugees, which would become a major force of destabilization. If island nations such as the Maldives are inundated it would completely disrupt global conventions and understanding of maritime boundaries, resources, and limitations.

Goodman explains how the Responsibility to Prepare and Prevent (R2P2) doctrine seeks to address these vulnerable populations. The R2P2 was introduced at the UN Security Council in 2017, but it needs significant development and more attention from major countries that have the resources to incorporate its recommendations. 

As Goodman and General Muniruzzaman discussed, there is a large gap between the identification of climate change as a security issue and actual preparation. The U.S. must step up as a global leader in climate security and encourage other nations to join in preparing for the future to prevent these consequences. The world is entering a new era of climatization of security- making climate change foremost in all U.S. foreign policy- and with this, the national security community has an important opportunity to step up and lead by example.

Click here to watch the full conversation. 

Mackenzie Allen is an intern with the Center for Climate and Security, an institute of the Council on Strategic Risks

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