The Center for Climate & Security

The Climate Factor in Syrian Instability: A Conversation Worth Continuing

Hoerling et al 2012

Observed change in cold season precipitation for the period 1971–2010 minus 1902–70 (Hoerling et al., 2012).

A recently-released study by Jan Selby and colleagues analyzes existing research on the intersection of climate change and conflict in Syria. The article, published in the Journal of Political Geography, includes a critique of a 2015 study published by the Center for Climate and Security’s (CCS) Caitlin Werrell, Francesco Femia and Troy Sternberg (and a short briefer by CCS from 2012), as well as two other studies by Colin Kelley et al (2015) and Peter Gleick (2014). More research into the climate-conflict nexus in pre-civil war Syria is certainly welcome for better understanding the risks and informing future policies for addressing them. In this study, Selby et al. point to some important gaps in the data on the connection between displaced peoples and social and political unrest, and the possible role of market liberalization in the Syrian conflict. However, the study does nothing to refute the role of climate change in Syrian instability in the years before the war, while muddying the waters on the subject through a few mischaracterizations that are worth addressing at some length. (more…)

ASEAN Climate and Security Cooperation Continues

No better friend: Marines and sailors showcase humanitarian capabilities during ASEAN conference

Marines and sailors showcase humanitarian capabilities during ASEAN conference (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Shaltiel Dominguez)

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…)

A Responsibility to Prepare: Governing in an Age of Unprecedented Risk and Foresight

UN_security_council_2005Report 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.

Assistant Secretary of Defense Niemeyer: Climate Plays Pivotal Role in Military Mission

USS AlbanyOn 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…)

Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs on Climate Instability and Political Instability

General_Paul_J._Selva,_USAF_(VJCS)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…)

Extraordinary Congressional Bipartisanship on Climate and Security

800px-United_States_Capitol_Building-_west_front_editOn 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…)

Nominee for Secretary of the Navy: Climate change impacts military readiness

800px-Navy Norfolk Virginia

USS Harry S. Truman at Norfolk (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Tyler Folnsbee)

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.

See a CCS transcript of the exchange between Senator Warren and Captain Spencer below (at 1:25:49 in the video). (more…)

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