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Note from CCS and CSR Co-Founder on Ten Years of Combating the Greatest Systemic Threats of Our Time

By Caitlin E. Werrell

After ten years of work, first as Co-Founder and President of the Center for Climate and Security (CCS), then as Co-Founder and CEO of the Council on Strategic Risks (CSR), I will be stepping back from day-to-day leadership to focus my time on continuing to foster a new generation of thinkers and leaders that are anticipating, analyzing and addressing some of the most systemic threats to security in the 21st Century.

When Francesco Femia and I founded CCS and CSR, we could not have imagined the extraordinarily talented team and advisors we would have in place just ten years later, and the colleagues and friends from around the world we have had the opportunity and honor to work with. 

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For First Time, the Pentagon IG Annual Report Identifies Climate Change as Top Challenge

By Dr. Marc Kodack

In another sign that the Department of Defense (DoD) is prioritizing climate security risks, the annual Inspector General (IG) summary of the Department’s top management challenges explicitly discusses climate change and extreme weather events. This is the first time the report has featured climate change, incorporating it along with global pandemics in a section on strengthening resiliency to non-traditional threats. 

The report explores a number of ways climate change and extreme weather challenge the DoD. It includes the following examples of the costly impact of extreme weather events on installations:  $3.6 billion in hurricane damages to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina in 2018 and the 2019 flooding that caused $1 billion in damages to Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. The report also notes the risk of rising sea levels at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland; noting they are expected to rise an additional 3.6 feet by 2050 causing significant campus flooding. 

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EVENT: US Navy War College: The National Security Significance of a Changing Climate, January 8

Rough seas pound the hull of Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Arctic as she sails alongside Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua A. Moore

On January 8, the US Naval War College will host a public conference, The National Security Significance of a Changing Climate: Risk and Resilience in the 21st Century. Center for Climate and Security (CCS)CCS Advisory Board member, the Hon. Alice Hill, will serve as the keynote speaker, and panels feature many members of the CCS staff and community, including CCS Advisory Board Members the Hon. Sherri Goodman, Dr. Marcus King, and Rear Adm. Ann Phillips (Ret). Also on tap to speak are CCS Director John Conger and CCS Senior Research Fellow Josh Busby.
We’re delighted to see such an event on the War College’s agenda–In our Climate Security Plan for America, we recommend expanded training programs across the US government to ensure federal employees understand how to characterize and respond to climate security risks. This type of conference is an excellent step toward fulfilling that recommendation. For more information, check out this video about the conference and please click here to register for what is sure to be a fascinating discussion.

How to Prioritize Climate Change in U.S. National Security

By Kate Guy

From the outset of Joe Biden’s run for the American presidency, he pledged to look at national security with fresh eyes. Evolving systemic threats like climate change, often relegated to the portfolios of environmental experts and science agencies, were repeatedly mentioned in his plans to remake U.S. defense and foreign policy. “Climate change is the existential threat to humanity,” he often reiterated in the closing days of his campaign.

Now, with the first members of President-elect Biden’s national security team announced, it’s clear that he has taken the first steps to make good on these campaign promises. In the past few years, nominees like Blinken, Sullivan, and Haines have each referenced the need for the U.S. to prioritize addressing climate change in its approach to global challenges. And with the creation of a cabinet-level Presidential Climate Envoy, long-time climate security leader John Kerry will sit in every meeting of the National Security Council with his eye trained on climate threats.

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