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Military Advisory Board: Oil Dependency Achilles Heel of U.S. National Security

“Overreliance on oil in the transportation sector is the Achilles heel of our national security.”

A report released last week by the Center for Naval Analysis’ Military Advisory Board (or MAB), made up of some of the United States’ highest-ranking retired military leaders, called for “immediate, swift and aggressive action” over the next decade to reduce U.S. oil consumption 30% in the next ten years.  This is the latest in a series of reports by the MAB, beginning with the 2007 release of “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change.” The report, titled “Ensuring America’s Freedom of Movement: A National Security Imperative to Reduce U.S. Oil Dependence,” states emphatically that “America’s dependence on oil constitutes a significant threat– economically, geopolitically, environmentally, and militarily” and that “even a small interruption of the daily oil supply impacts our nation’s economic engine, but a sustained disruption would alter every aspect of our lives — from food costs and distribution to what or if we eat, to manufacturing goods and services to freedom of movement. (more…)

The Global Resiliency Market

There’s a new gold rush on, but it’s not about gold. It’s about land. More specifically, it’s about buying and selling land, food, water, and ultimately, resilience. A number of countries, short on arable land and water, are investing in a sort of global insurance policy. Countries like China, Saudi Arabia and South Korea, with significant portions of their countries operating beyond their own water budgets, are busy making up the difference by buying up lands in water and soil-rich areas of Africa, South America and South Asia, growing crops on the acquired land and then shipping the crops (and the embedded or “virtual” water that went into growing them) back to their respective countries. The sellers, on the other hand, are giving up land, water and future resilience for, in some instances, pocket change (see Lester Brown). One might call this the “global resiliency market,” and as with any market, there are serious risks for all who participate.
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Pakistan: Don’t Sell the Discourse Short

Terrorism, Taliban, drones, attacks, floods. These are a few of the words frequently seen in news headlines about Pakistan these days. Two words you will rarely see are “climate” and “change.” While statistically significant correlations between climate change and single weather events, like the one that caused the recent flooding in Pakistan, are difficult to come by, it is worth pausing to consider the effects that projected climate shifts in the region, such as a more erratic monsoon season, might have on a state with such a volatile mix of security problems and natural disasters. (more…)

War and Peace…and El Niño…and Climate Change

NOAA.A new study by M. Hsiang et al., covering the years 1950 – 2004, shows that conflicts are associated with the El Niño cycle. According to Hsiang and his colleagues, “the probability of new civil conflicts arising throughout the tropics doubles during El Niño years relative to La Niña years.” The authors do not claim that El Niño is the sole factor in determining civil conflict (poverty and governance are other key factors), but this is a significant finding. (more…)

Climate Change and Immobility

John Martinez Pavliga from Berkeley, USAIn recent years there has been considerable discussion on how climate change, acting as a threat multiplier, could increase migration both within and across borders.  The debate, at times contentious, largely centers on how climate change impacts the environmental and social factors that drive migration.  This is a critical issue. However, there has been comparatively far less discussion of what we’ll call “climate immobility” – or how populations affected by the impacts of climate change, in addition to other destabilizing factors, may not have the means to move to a less vulnerable location. The dire situation in south-central Somalia, for example, where the insurgent group al-Shabab has restricted the flow of aid and the movement of people suffering from drought and famine, suggests that  involuntarily immobile populations may become some of the most vulnerable to climate impacts.

Matching Resources to Security Risk: the Climate Change Anomaly

Our piece in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, written with Christine Parthemore of the Center  for a New American Security, addresses the discrepancy between U.S. financial and political capital spent on combating three security risks (WMDs, terrorism and economic crisis) and the financial and political capital spent on combating the security risk of climate change. It makes the point that the U.S. national security establishment has recognized the threat of climate change as comparable to other security risks, but U.S. policy-makers have not responded accordingly. See the full article here, and cross-posted below:

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The Drought that Broke the Camel’s Back

If resiliency had a mascot it would probably be the camel.  These even-toed ungulates are able to go long periods of time without water, can withstand wide temperature ranges and are generally drought-tolerant. A camel might typically be considered the perfect companion for a climate-uncertain world.  For this reason, the camel has acted as a critical lifeline for many Somalis during the dry seasons. Perhaps this is what is most disturbing about the death of more than 50% of Somalia’s camels as a result of the recent drought.  As posed by Sophia Jones in a Foreign Policy piece today, “If camels can’t survive, what can?”