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The Making of a Climate General: An Interview with IMCCS Chair, Retired General Tom Middendorp

By Elsa Barron

The chair of the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS), Gen. Tom Middendorp (Ret.) recently published a book titled Klimaatgeneraal, or “Climate General.” The book builds on his tenure as the Chief of Defense of the Netherlands to illustrate the relationship between climate change and security risks, before turning to positive solutions to address these interconnected challenges. CCS Research Fellow Elsa Barron spoke with Gen. Middendorp about his identity as a “climate general,” the evolution of the climate security field, and opportunities for climate adaptation and mitigation in the security sector. 

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RELEASE: Amid European Heat Wave, International Military Network Releases Report Warning of Security Risks of Climate Change in the Balkans

By Elsa Barron

July 25, 2022 —  In the midst of one of Europe’s most punishing heat waves in recent memory, the Expert Group of the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS Expert Group) today launched a new Climate Security Snapshot focused on the Balkans. The snapshot builds on findings from the Climate Security Risk Index (CSRI), a tool developed by Expert Group member The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies. It is the second in a series of papers comprising the third annual World Climate and Security Report (WCSR).

The report warns that the Balkans face serious climate security risks. Intensifying climate change impacts such as drought, heatwaves (as witnessed this summer), and tropical storms may heighten existing post-conflict tensions, threaten Europe’s broader climate goals, and increase the region’s susceptibility to influence from the Russian and Chinese governments. Additionally, climate-induced migration flows from the Middle East and Africa through the region may be exploited by far right extremists. The ongoing conflict in neighboring Ukraine only further heightens these concerns.

According to the CSRI, when compared to other regions of Europe, the Balkans face some of the most severe climate risks. Globally, climate risks in the Balkans fall slightly below average, and its resilience falls almost exactly in the middle of the global standard (though it is a standard which is dropping due to accelerating climate change). All nations in the region except Albania at least slightly outperform in resilience when compared to risk. However, those relative measures do not minimize the region’s significant vulnerability to increasing climate disasters, especially when compared to other parts of Europe, not least given a recent history of ethnic and sectarian conflict, which studies have shown increases the likelihood of climate-driven conflict. 

Additionally, the report asserts that engaged climate security action—at a scale commensurate to the rapidly-increasing risks—can offer positive opportunities for post-conflict peacebuilding and cooperation in the Balkans, and can build a strong framework of human security for the region. Such efforts will be critical to continuing to mitigate and adapt to climate change and build peace, security, and climate resilience.

This climate security snapshot follows the release of the first report in the WCSR 2022 series, Decarbonized Defense: The Need for Clean Military Power in the Age of Climate Change. Future components of the series will include climate security snapshots in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Sahel as well as a report on climate security adaptation practices and gaps among NATO militaries.

Direct inquiries to: Andrew Facini, afacini@csrisks.org

Summer Heatwave Underscores Importance of NATO’s Climate Security Focus

By Erin Sikorsky

On July 18, the UK Royal Air Force halted flights out of its largest airbase because the ‘runway had melted’ —a line my colleagues suggested they’d expect to read in a dystopian science fiction novel about the future. Alas, this headline was all too real, as countries across Europe battled record climate change-driven heatwaves. 

While part of the RAF was (temporarily) grounded, other European militaries—in Spain, Germany, France, Portugal, Cyprus, and Slovenia—were helping fight unprecedented fires across their countries. Nearly half of the EU and UK is at risk of drought, with the European Commission’s Joint Research Center assessing that water and heat stress are driving crop yields down and straining energy production across the continent. Given that food and energy crises were expected well before this heatwave struck, due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg could not have asked for a better illustration of his assertion that climate change is a “crisis multiplier.”

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Backgrounder: Climate Change and the National Defense Authorization Act

An often-overlooked area of bipartisan collaboration in Washington revolves around the security threat of climate change, with Republicans and Democrats agreeing on legislation to highlight and respond to the threat, and putting forward bills that have become law. More must be done to reduce the scale and scope of the threat, but as Congress develops the FY2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), it is worth looking back at the progress the United States has seen over the past several years, much of which aligns with the priorities described in the Climate Security Plan for America and the follow up report, Challenge Accepted.

In this backgrounder, we track key provisions that have been included in NDAAs from Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 through FY 2022, building from the initial, bipartisan declaration in 2017 that climate change was a direct threat to national security, to requirements for vulnerability assessments, resilience authorities, strategy requirements, and mainstreaming consideration of climate impacts on mission.

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