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EVENT: Building Climate Resilience at Home – Preparing for and Preventing the Security Impacts of Climate Change

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The fourth panel in our series, “Planning for the First 100 Days and Beyond”

May 12, 2021 1 PM -3 PM ET

Click here to register.

This virtual event hosted by the Center for Climate and Security (CCS), an institute of the Council on Strategic Risks, is the third in our series looking at actions the Biden Administration can take on climate security in its first 100 days and beyond. Building Climate Resilience at Home focuses on the fourth and final pillar of the Climate Security Plan for America (published by CCS and endorsed by dozens of military, foreign policy and intelligence experts, including eight retired four-star generals and admirals), which urges investments in resilient infrastructure, resilient forces, and prevention initiatives. The panel will react to the new Biden Administration budget request and the specific programs they should embrace to prepare for, and to prevent, climate impacts.

Panelists will include:

  • John Conger, Director, Center for Climate and Security and former Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller)
  • Alice Hill, Senior Fellow for Climate Change Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations; Governing Board, Council on Strategic Risks
  • RADM (USN, Ret) Ann Phillips, Special Assistant to the Governor of Virginia for Coastal Adaptation and Protection; Advisory Board, The Center for Climate and Security
  • Joan Vandervort, former DoD Deputy Director for Ranges, Sea and Airspace; Advisory Board, The Center for Climate and Security

Click here to RSVP. If you have any questions or need more information, email: events@climateandsecurity.org

For videos of our first three events in this series, see below:

Climate Change: A Core National Security Priority (Dec 15, 2020)

Unprecedented Foresight: Improving Climate Security Risk Assessments (Jan 28, 2021)

Building Climate Resilience Abroad: Helping Partners and Allies with Climate Security Risks (Mar 29, 2021)

Security Highlights from the Leaders Summit on Climate

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U.S. President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. kicks off the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate in Washington, D.C., on April 22, 2021. 

By Erin Sikorsky

Last week’s Leaders Summit on Climate made history for many reasons — because of the number of new commitments on cutting emissions, its virtual nature, the focus on environmental justice, and that climate security was included at a level never before seen on the global stage. The big news out of the summit was President Biden’s announcement of a new target for the United States to achieve a 50 to 52 percent reduction from 2005 levels in economy-wide net greenhouse gas pollution in 2030. This step is in line with our call in the 2019 A Security Threat Assessment of Global Climate Change for “the world to achieve net-zero emissions as soon as possible in a manner that is ambitious, safe, equitable, and well governed, in order to avoid severe and catastrophic security futures.”

More specific to climate security risks already underway, US Secretary of Defense Austin led a session focused on identifying climate security risks and reiterating existing promises for combating them. While this administration has done more than any other towards elevating climate security as a foreign policy priority, it’s now time to move from talk to action–toward realigning priorities, strategies and missions to meet the climate security threat. The discussion led by Secretary Austin revealed multiple pathways to do so — and an international community that welcomes US leadership on the topic. Three of the key takeaways on which to build are as follows:

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Drought is Leading to Instability and Water Weaponization in the Middle East and North Africa

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An Iraqi woman walks between Soldiers of A Company, 2-162 Infantry, 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Oregon Army National Guard as they pull security for a mission outside Scania Base. The mission was to check on the condition of a water treatment facility. The facility filters water for six nearby villages.

By Marcus D. King with Rianna LeHane   

Water stress is a growing problem worldwide. Overuse, population growth, and climate change are contributing to desperate conditions and violent extremist organizations (VEOs) are turning scarce water into a weapon. Nowhere is this trend more visible than in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), a region of critical importance to U.S. national security interests. The MENA region has long been prone to both cyclical and discrete periods of droughts. There is mounting evidence suggesting that climate change, by driving significant winter precipitation decline, is increasing the frequency and severity of these events.   

Climate change impacts that affected Syria could be a harbinger for other countries in the region. The connection between climate change and Syrian instability was first raised by our colleagues Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell in 2012, and confirmed by climate scientist and Center for Climate and Security Senior Fellow, Colin P. Kelley, and his colleagues, who linked the consequential 2007-2010 drought to a long-term warming trend in the eastern Mediterranean (finding that the drought was made 2-3 times more likely due to climate change).. Drought conditions as well as poorly-designed and discriminatory water policies implemented by the Assad regime and the Alawite elite were also factors that contributed to societal instability at the onset of the Syrian civil war. The regional climate model ALADIN corroborates previous studies projecting that the MENA region will continue to be a global hotspot for drought into the late twenty-first century.  

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New US Intelligence Community Reports Focus on Climate and Ecological Security Risks

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Vice President Kamala Harris swears in Avril Haines as Director of National Intelligence, Jan, 21, 2021 (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

In two new publicly-available, unclassified reports, the US Director of National Intelligence makes clear the critical role climate change and ecological degradation are playing in shaping the US national security landscape, both in the near term and long term. While the US intelligence community has long warned of the threats posed by climate change, the new Global Trends report and the latest Annual Threat Assessment are some of the sharpest, most detailed, and urgent warnings to date.

Global Trends 2040: A More Contested World

The quadrennial Global Trends report assesses the key trends and uncertainties that will form the strategic environment for the United States during the next two decades. This year’s report identifies environment and climate change as a “structural force” that, along with technological change, demographics and human development, and economics, will set the parameters of the future. The report gives more pages over to climate and environment issues than any previous Global Trends, noting, “During the next 20 years, the physical effects from climate change of higher temperatures, sea level rise, and extreme weather events will impact every country. The costs and challenges will disproportionately fall on the developing world, intersecting with environmental degradation to intensify risks to food, water, health, and energy security.”

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