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A new, first-of-its-kind report from the Center for Climate and Security (CCS), China’s Climate Security Vulnerabilities explores China’s security vulnerabilities in the face of expected climate change effects, focusing on its key risks, the Chinese response so far, and identifies important uncertainties as conditions continue to develop. The report also makes several recommendations for the United States as it addresses what the Department of Defense has called the “pacing threat” from China.
While China is often credited with better integrating a long-term approach to its strategic planning than the West, there are key uncertainties regarding Beijing’s climate security preparations, including tensions between day-to-day politics and strategic planning, as well as the adequacy of its adaptation strategy, which is largely rooted in physical infrastructure projects.
From the Executive Summary:
From melting glaciers in the Tibetan Plateau to the effect of rising sea levels on the heavily populated Yangtze River Basin and Pearl River Delta, from record heatwaves and drought to unprecedented flooding from extreme precipitation—a range of climate hazards threaten critical Chinese civilian and military infrastructure, risk domestic political instability, including in already restive regions of the country, and challenge Chinese geopolitical interests abroad.
China’s senior leadership appears to recognize climate change as a national security threat. Under Xi Jinping, China has adopted a broad concept of national security that encompasses internal and external, traditional and non-traditional threats. It is unclear, however, the extent to which ecological and climate security topics have permeated Chinese military strategy and doctrine, though public documents and statements provide some indications that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is at least considering these climate implications.
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.
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.(more…)
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.”(more…)