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By Shiloh Fetzek, Senior Fellow for International Affairs
The security implications of climate change are particularly acute in the Asia-Pacific region. It therefore comes as no surprise that this issue was raised several times during the August 2-8 ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Manila, Philippines.
At the ASEAN Plus Three (or APT: ASEAN plus China, South Korea and Japan) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Monday, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano indicated that expanding regional cooperation on climate security issues would be on the agenda. (more…)
Report summary: The world in the 21st century is characterized by both unprecedented risk and unprecedented foresight. Climate change, population shifts and cyber-threats are rapidly increasing the scale and complexity of risks to international security, while technological developments are increasing our capacity to foresee those risks. This world of high consequence risks, which can be better modeled and anticipated than in the past, underscores a clear responsibility for the international community: A “Responsibility to Prepare.” This responsibility, which builds on hard-won lessons of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) framework for preventing and responding to mass atrocities, requires a reform of existing governance institutions to ensure that critical, nontraditional risks to international security, such as climate change, are anticipated, analyzed and addressed systematically, robustly and rapidly by intergovernmental security institutions and the security establishments of nations that participate in that system. For more, see the Responsibility to Prepare page, including the full report.
On July 18, 2017 the Senate Armed Services Committee held a confirmation hearing for Lucian L. Niemeyer, the next Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations and Environment (IE&E), who ultimately received unanimous support from the Committee. Mr. Niemeyer’s comments on climate change, both in written responses to advance policy questions, and during the hearing, supported the strong commitment Secretary of Defense James Mattis has made to addressing climate change-related risks to the U.S. military’s mission. Here is a link to the full hearing video (question and response on climate change begin at 1:04:00). Below is an excerpt from Mr. Niemeyer’s written answers to advance policy questions on climate change, and an excerpt from the hearing itself. (more…)
During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on July 18, 2017, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Paul J. Selva, gave a detailed description of the impact he understands climate change has (and will have) on the global operating environment in which the armed services operate, and the need for the Department of Defense to be prepared for the threat. Of particular note, he stated: “It will also cause us to have to focus on places where climate instability might cause actual political instability in regions of the world we hadn’t previously had to pay attention to.” That inspires us to shamelessly plug our recent report, “Epicenters of Climate and Security: The New Geostrategic Landscape of the Anthropocene,” which explores a number of possible hot spots of the kind the General is referring to.
Below is both a full transcript of his comments, and a video of the exchange: (more…)
On July 13, the U.S. House of Representatives defended a provision in the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act which identifies climate change as a “direct threat to the national security of the United States,” and requests a report from the Department of Defense on climate change risks to its mission over the next 20 years. Forty-six Republicans joined 188 Democrats in supporting the provision, for a vote tally of 234-185. A number of representatives spoke in favor of the provision, and cited Secretary of Defense James Mattis’s words in his responses to the Senate Armed Services Committee, wherein he noted that climate change is a current threat that is altering the strategic environment, and presenting a range of risks to military readiness and operations. Secretary Mattis’s statements were supported in a range of Congressional briefings that preceded the NDAA vote, held by the Center for Climate and Security and its partners on April 27, May 17, June 5, and July 12. (more…)
During his confirmation hearing on July 11, the President’s nominee for Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer, a former Marine captain, agreed that the impacts of climate change threaten military readiness, and must be addressed. Captain Spencer follows in Secretary of Defense James Mattis’s footsteps, and a long line of thinking at the Department stretching back to 2003. His comments are also consistent with the Center for Climate and Security’s 2016 “Military Expert Panel Report: Sea Level Rise and the U.S. Military’s Mission,” which brought together retired flag and general officers from across all the service branches.
This is a blog series highlighting each article in the Center for Climate and Security’s recent report, “Epicenters of Climate and Security: The New Geostrategic Landscape of the Anthropocene.”
Water Towers: Security Risks in a Changing Climate
By Troy Sternberg
Since the Boutros Boutros Ghali, then Secretary General of the United Nations stated that the next war in the Middle East will be over water, not politics, the global community has focused on water flashpoints, particularly in the Middle East. But examining micro- to meso-scale dynamics has confined thinking to rivers, aquifers and watersheds at national levels. While important, discussion has often ignored the megascale threat of human and climate changes to the world’s mountain ‘water towers’ and the resultant implications to security and human well-being. For example: two billion people depend on water originating on the Tibetan Plateau. Hundreds of millions more drink from global water towers, including the massive Andes, Rockies, Tien Shan, Caucasus and Alps to the more modest Ethiopian and Guinean Highlands. In each, climate change affects glaciers, water resources and runoff. If it were only a matter of harnessing water from a nation’s territorial mountain, the issue would be structural; the complication comes when water flows through several states. Riparian nations stress natural, human and economic rights to water that crosses their realm, yet without physical control, states remain vulnerable to upstream users. This gives a hegemonic dynamic to control of water towers with significant implications for national and regional security…