The Center for Climate & Security

UPDATE: Chronology of U.S. Military Statements and Actions on Climate Change and Security: Jan 2017- Oct 2019


Since January 2017, at least thirty-five senior officials at the U.S. Defense Department (DoD) have publicly raised concerns about, and recommended actions to address, the security implications of climate change, both due to its effect on military infrastructure, readiness and operations, and its broader geostrategic implications for the United States. (more…)

General Castellaw on Devastating New Sea Level Rise Exposure Projections

New Sea Level Rise Projections for Basra

Sea level projections for Basra, Iraq. Source: Kulp, S.A., Strauss, B.H. New elevation data triple estimates of global vulnerability to sea-level rise and coastal flooding. Nat Commun 10, 4844 (2019)

A new study by Climate Central’s Scott Kulp and Benjamin Strauss, published in the prestigious Nature Communications, finds that populated coastlines around the world are three times more exposed to sea level rise than previously thought, which has the potential to almost completely inundate major coastal cities around the world. The potential security implications of the loss of these major coastal urban areas are enormous. In an article covering the new report, the New York Times spoke with the Center for Climate and Security’s Lieutenant General John Castellaw, US Marine Corps (Ret), about projections for the important coastal city of Basra in Iraq. From the article:

Basra, the second-largest city in Iraq, could be mostly underwater by 2050. If that happens, the effects could be felt well beyond Iraq’s borders, according to John Castellaw, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant general who was chief of staff for United States Central Command during the Iraq War.

Further loss of land to rising waters there “threatens to drive further social and political instability in the region, which could reignite armed conflict and increase the likelihood of terrorism,” said General Castellaw, who is now on the advisory board of the Center for Climate and Security, a research and advocacy group in Washington.

“So this is far more than an environmental problem,” he said. “It’s a humanitarian, security and possibly military problem too.”

Read the full sea level rise study here.


Climate Change, Wildfires, the Military and Artificial Intelligence


Kincade Fire, seen by NOAA’s GOES West on Oct. 24, 2019, covering 10,000 acres

By Marc Kodack

In the western United States, climate change is increasing the risk of wildfires, such as the ongoing Kincade Fire that is devastating northern California. This is in part because increased temperatures driven by greenhouse gas emissions are drying out available fuels for fires. As we’re seeing today, when ignition occurs under these conditions, fires can become extraordinarily challenging for local communities and first responders to manage. (more…)

Former Homeland Security Secretaries Talk Climate and Security

Chertoff and Napolitano

Former Secretaries of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and Janet Napolitano testify before the Senate Homeland Security Committee on September 9, 2019

In case you missed it: In a September 9 hearing on “Homeland Security and Terrorism” before the Senate Homeland Security Committee, two former Secretaries of Homeland Security – Janet Napolitano, who served under President Barack Obama, and Michael Chertoff, who served under President George W. Bush, highlighted the security risks of climate change. Below are excerpts covering the issue:

Secretary Napolitano: But as we all know, and as the former speakers have alluded, threats against our homeland are not static. They evolve. We in the department must adapt with them. Today, i would like to speak with you about three areas i believe the country must focus on — cybersecurity, mass casualty shootings, and the effects of global warming on climate change…


U.S. Army War College: Climate Change Presents Serious Threat to the Military Mission in 20 Years

US Army War College_Implications of Climate Change for the U.S. Army_2019_7

On October 24, Vice News took notice of a U.S. Army War College report, commissioned by then-Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley (who is now the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), detailing the possibility of a collapse of the military mission in the face of climate change – in just 20 years. It’s an extraordinary report, showing how seriously the U.S. military takes the security risks of climate change, despite political pressures to the contrary. In light of this story, we are herein re-posting a summary of the report by the Center for Climate and Security’s Mariah Furtek, published on August 1, below. (more…)

Hearing: 4 Defense and Service Assistant Secretaries Highlight Climate Change Risks to the Military

Assistant Secretary McMahon

The Honorable Robert H. McMahon, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment, October 16, 2019

By Marc Kodack

On October 16, 2019, the House Armed Services’ Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities and the Subcommittee on Readiness held a joint hearing on “Resiliency of Military Installations to Emerging Threats.” Witnesses providing statements and answering questions included the HON Robert McMahon, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment; the HON John Henderson, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy; the HON Alex Beehler, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment; and the HON Lucian Niemeyer, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment. All highlighted climate change-related risks and/or its effects to their respective military installations in both their written statements and answers to multiple Member’s questions during the hearing. (more…)

The Human and Climatic Effects of an India-Pakistan Nuclear Conflict

Indian Agni-II intermediate range ballistic missile

An Indian Agni-II intermediate range ballistic missile on a road-mobile launcher, displayed at the Republic Day Parade, New Delhi’s Rajpath, January 26, 2004. Antônio Milena (ABr)

By Christine Parthemore

On October 2, a team of researchers published the results of extensive work to model the effects of nuclear war between Pakistan and India. The scenario, posited for the year 2025, examined features a high-casualty terrorist attack on Indian government officials resulting in widespread conflict between these countries. 

In “Rapidly expanding nuclear arsenals in Pakistan and India portend regional and global catastrophe,” published in Science Advances, the authors chose a scenario in which India and Pakistan successfully use 300 strategic nuclear weapons against one another’s urban targets. Their chosen scenario entails further conflict, but with some weapons failing to detonate and some being targeted at remote military sites for which damage was not included. (more…)

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