Last year, the Center for Climate and Security released China’s Climate Security Vulnerabilities, a report that outlined the ways in which climate hazards may shape the country’s stability and security going forward. The extreme weather events in China during the past few months provide a case study of the key dynamics identified in the paper, including risks to Chinese food security and domestic stability, as well as the role of the military in responding to such hazards. One event in particular, Typhoon Doksuri’s landfall in Fujian Province and the subsequent flooding it caused as it traveled north, illustrated such vulnerabilities with immediate and heavy impact. But the crisis caused by Doksuri provides an opening for the United States to engage with the Chinese government on climate and food security issues, as well.
Beginning in late July, Typhoon Doksuri and its remnants brought torrential rains which flooded the Chinese capital Beijing and other areas in the northeast. By one measure, the amount of rain that fell in a 5 day period in the Beijing region–29.3 inches–was the “most ever recorded since recordkeeping began during the Qing dynasty in 1883.” The water displaced millions and destroyed thousands of homes and hectares of farmland. Thousands of troops from the Chinese People’s Armed Police (PAP) and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have deployed in response, providing rescue and evacuation assistance, distributing emergency supplies, and conducting a range of other activities.(more…)
In June, the Military Responses to Climate Hazards (MiRCH) tracker identified 15 instances of military responses to climate change-related hazards across the globe. For much of the month, hundreds of wildfires burned across Canada, leading to the deployment of around 550 troops and associated aircraft equipment to assist in firefighting. The Canadian Chief of the Defense Staff Wayne Eyre warned that disaster response is straining the military’s ability to fulfill its core duties, and Ottawa is considering creating a national disaster response agency, akin to FEMA, for the first time.
In the United States in late June, a large swath of the country was experiencing dangerous levels of heat, which the National Weather Service defines as 103° to 125°F. At these temperatures, heat cramps or heat exhaustion are likely, and heat stroke is possible with prolonged exposure or physical activity. The affected region includes multiple military bases such as Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center in Mississippi and Fort Huachuca in Arizona. The latter experienced a wildfire in late June that affected its power supply.
In South Asia, Cyclone Biparjoy prompted the evacuation of 173,000 people in Pakistan and India in June, highlighting challenging dynamics around military deployments to climate hazards. Rivals India and Pakistan deployed military forces to Gujarat and Sindh Provinces, respectively, to deal with Biparjoy’s landfall, almost certainly saving lives. The rival governments’ real-time coordination of relief was reportedly minimal, however, consistent with past disasters, highlighting the obstacles security tensions pose to collaborative responses to transboundary climate hazards. Additionally, in Pakistan, the military conducted short-notice evacuations of 60,000 people to nearby relief camps, highlighting their ability to mobilize quickly, but also spurring complaints from some residents over mandatory relocations and inadequately equipped camps.
Finally, Biparjoy illustrated the compounding strain of back-to-back climate hazards on militaries and communities. In Pakistan, the cyclone hit the same areas that suffered devastating floods last year, while the Indian military the same week had to rescue 2,000 tourists trapped by extreme precipitation and flooding, 1500 miles away in North Sikkim Province.
Meanwhile, events in Myanmar show how repressive militaries can weaponize climate relief. There, Cyclone Mocha’s landfall in mid-May devastated the largely minority Muslim Rakhine state. In recent weeks, the ethnic insurgent group the Arakan Army has provided humanitarian relief and the ruling military junta blocked international aid from reaching needy communities, putting thousands of lives at risk.
To see the full MiRCH tracker with new updates for June, click here.
On 13 June, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) held a ministerial-level open debate on climate change, peace and security—the latest in a series of UNSC meetings on the topic. While many ministerial statements focused on the nexus of climate change, instability, and conflict, the conversation underscored how today’s competitive geopolitical dynamics are complicating good-faith efforts to address climate security in such multilateral fora. Statements from China, in particular, suggest it sees a geopolitical opportunity in such discussions. Namely, due to the United States and other countries in the Global North failing to live up to their commitments to provide climate finance, especially adaptation funds, to the Global South.
In last week’s meeting, China used its time at the microphone to level a series of pointed comments aimed implicitly at the United States and the European Union (EU). Beijing’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Zhang Jun, argued there were three areas in which the UNSC should focus its attention.(more…)
Late last week, the U.S. Congress passed landmark climate legislation in the form of the Inflation Reduction Act. This legislation will speed up deployment of clean energy and lower US carbon emissions by about 40 percent from 2005 levels, closing two-thirds of the remaining gap between current policies and the US climate target of a 50 percent reduction in emissions by 2030. The legislation has multiple implications for U.S. climate security going forward—including helping prevent the worst security outcomes of unchecked emissions, bolstering U.S. credibility as it pushes other countries to reduce emissions, improving U.S. energy reliability and resilience, and complementing Department of Defense efforts to curb its own emissions in hard to decarbonize sectors.(more…)