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Ahead of Arctic Council Meeting, New “Story Map” Analysis Outlines Mounting Climate Change Risks to Arctic Security

May 18, 2021 — Today, ahead of Thursday’s Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting, the Council on Strategic Risks’ Converging Risks Lab and the Woodwell Climate Research Center release a new “story map” analysis of the major impacts climate change and permafrost thaw will have on defense infrastructure and security operations in the Arctic. It shows that against a backdrop of regional warming, Arctic nations are increasingly competing alongside the accelerating and dangerous impacts of climate change. 

The forthcoming report whose findings are previewed this week in the “story map” analysis titled “Temperatures and Tensions Rise: Security and Climate Risks in the Arctic,” combines the latest climate projections with security analysis. It examine two main trends that will experience significant change in the Arctic and result in new challenges: rapid environmental shifts that will destabilize the region, including loss of sea ice, new temperature extremes, warming oceans, permafrost thaw, and biodiversity changes, and an influx of new human activity, including resource extraction, development, use of new shipping lanes, and military traffic. The story map analysis derived from the forthcoming report includes detailed regional maps overlaying the extent of these climate changes and their future projections alongside increasing human and security activities in the region.

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New Report: Melting Mountains, Mounting Tensions: Climate Change and the India-China Rivalry

By Rachel Fleishman and Sarang Shidore

See the associated India-China story map here.

In many parts of the world, climate change is a trigger for disaster. In some, it can also be a catalyst for conflict. On the India-China border, it has the potential to be both—exacerbating an already-fraught relationship with the potential for escalation to the nuclear plane.   

Melting Mountains, Mounting Tensions: Climate Change and the India-China Rivalry is the first of a series of case studies integrating security analysis of instability and conflict involving nuclear-armed states with cutting-edge climate science. The outcome of a novel collaboration between the Converging Risks Lab of the Council on Strategic Risks and the Woodwell Climate Research Center, the case studies aim to raise awareness and flag the urgency of converging climate and nuclear risks at a time when the global security landscape is becoming more complex.  Climate change is the main impetus for new Chinese hydropower projects in the Tibetan Plateau and in Pakistani-held Kashmir. The addition of clean energy to the Chinese grid will contribute to decarbonizing the economy. But Indian populations downstream in the Indus and Brahmaputra river basins worry that China will use its dams to manipulate water flow, inducing or worsening droughts and floods. 

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The Himalayan Hotspot: Diplomacy Needed to Address Environmental and Climate Security Risks

By Maya Saidel

Heightened militarization in the Himalayan region has impeded diplomatic and multilateral efforts to tackle critical climate issues endangering one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. In early June, at least 20 soldiers perished in a historic clash between Indian and Chinese troops along the disputed Himalayan border in Ladakh. This confrontation is the most recent deadly episode in a long history of border disputes between the two countries. The Line of Actual Control (LAC) demarcation, intended to designate which country controlls specific territory, was established after the Sino-Indian War in 1962. Yet, according to The Indian Express, efforts to clarify the exact location of the LAC in the Ladakh region have “effectively stalled since 2002.”  

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Pentagon and Northern Command: Climate Change Has Implications for National Security in the Arctic

Gen O Shaughnessy_SASC_2020

General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, USAF, Commander of United States Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, speaks before the Senate Armed Services Committee – March 3, 2020

By Dr. Marc Kodack

In case you missed it, on March 3 the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sub-Committee on Readiness and Management Support, held a hearing on “U.S. Policy and Posture in Support of Artic readiness.” Witnesses providing written statements and answering questions included the HON Dr. James Anderson, Performing the Duties of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and General Terrence O’Shaughnessy, Commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command. Both witnesses identified climate change implications for national security in the Arctic region. (more…)

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